|Top RAF officer suggests suicide missions in terror fight
By NICK MCDERMOTT
3rd April 2007
One of Britain's most senior RAF officers has raised the prospect of fighter pilots flying suicide missions as a last resort in the war on terror, it emerged last night.
Air Vice Marshal David Walker spoke of kamikaze flights in a 'provocative' discussion about the life-and-death decisions air crews have to make in battle.
Speaking to air crews during a training exercise, he said: 'Would you think it unreasonable if I ordered you to fly your aircraft into the ground to destroy a vehicle carrying a Taliban or Al Qaeda commander?'
The 50-year-old officer suggested a suicide mission could be considered as a 'worst-case scenario' once a pilot had run out of ammunition or his weapons had malfunctioned.
He could then use his jet to attack a hijacked plane in British airspace for example, or a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan.
The consequences of such an attack would mean almost certain death for the pilot, as well as the loss of equipment worth up to £50million.
Defence officials confirmed last night that the Air Vice Marshal had raised the scenario at a recent conference for air crews, but insisted he was only posing a theoretical question.
Air Vice Marshal Walker is a former fighter pilot and the commander of Number 1 Group - commonly known as Air Combat Group - which controls the RAF's fast-jet aircraft, including Tornado, Typhoon and Harrier fighters and bombers.
Speaking in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, he told the air crew, including newly qualified Typhoon pilots, they knew they would have to risk their lives when they signed up for service.
During World War II, he said, Spitfire pilots knew what would be expected of them if their guns jammed as they flew over Adolf Hitler's car below.
Kamikaze, which means 'divine wind', was coined in the 13th century after Japanese priests prayed for typhoons which drove back the Mongol invasion fleets.
During World War II, the word took on a more sinister meaning when Japanese pilots crashed their planes into Allied ships in suicide attacks towards the end of the conflict.
Comments 'don't represent MoD policy'
Last night, MoD sources stressed that Air Vice Marshal Walker's comments, delivered during a lecture and discussion session at his Strike Command headquarters, did not represent a new policy, or any intention to send British pilots on suicide missions.
An insider said: 'This was by way of a provocative discussion.
He was trying to get his audience to think the unthinkable, and shake-up is consider the worst-case scenarios they could face as military air crew, and what they would do.
'The point he was making, and wanting them to confront, was that servicemen and women are sometimes called upon to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the people they protect, and the RAF is no different.
'It's clearly an important part of their training that our people think these issues through clearly in their own minds.'
A RAF spokesman said last night: 'The Air Vice Marshal did not say he would order his crews on suicide missions. As part of a training exercise he wanted them to think about how they and their commanders would react faced with a life-and-death decision of the most extreme sort.
'For example, terrorists flying an aircraft into a British city being followed by an RAF fighter suffering a weapons failure.
'These are decisions which, however unlikely and dreadful, service people may have to make, and it is one of the many reasons why the British people hold them in such high esteem.'