The UK Air Force is planning to equip its Tornado jets with the Advanced Short Range Air-toAir Missile (ASRAAM) to ward off Russian threat in the wake of Kremlin having warned of targeting allied aircraft of the US-led coalition.
Last week a US fighter jet shot down a Syrian plane, attracting veiled threats from Russia that it might revoke its undestanding not to target each others' planes if Syrian planes were hit again, Daily Star reported Sunday.
Defence officials have said RAF Tornados in the region will get ASRAAM air-to-air missiles. The 2,000mph rockets are believed to bring down any modern warplane. RAF crews have been calling for their aircraft to be fitted with the missiles for months.
Pilots on bombing missions as part of Operation Shader said, "We felt exposed by being sent into combat without any protection."
The decision on the missiles was made last week, defense officials said. Pilots will operate under strict rules of engagement to avoid an accidental shooting war with Russia,. Relations between Russia and the West deteriorated last week after the downing of the Syrian jet.
The shooting down of a Syrian warplane took the US and Russia closer to the brink of conflict than any other incident in the last 20 years. Further, It also put RAF jets in the firing line – not just from the Russians but also the Syrians. As allies, Russia has a duty to defend Syria.
The Syrian jet was “immediately shot down... in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces”, US Central Command had said in a statement.
The ASRAAM (Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile), also known in US as the AIM-132, is a highly maneuverable heat-seeking short-range air-to-air missile produced by the United Kingdom’s MBDA corporation.
The missile was developed in order to replace the aging AIM-9 Sidewinder. The ASRAAM entered service in 1998 and has since been deployed in at least one conflict.