ROYAL Air Force chiefs have risked a bust-up with their pilots by forcing them to black out pictures of pin-ups painted on their planes - including Hampshire glamour girl Lucy Pinder.

In the 1940s it was common to see the likes of Rita Hayworth and Jane Russell adorning the fronts of Lancaster bombers and flying fortresses setting off en route to their German targets.

Countless more pictures of anonymous girls were splashed across aircraft, in poses almost as risque as their crews' missions were risky.

Sixty years on, when British airmen fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan decided to bring the practice into the 21st century, one of their first choices was Lucy, from Winchester.

But their plans were shot down before even getting off the ground - by politically correct bosses worried about offending female crew members and Muslim locals.

Senior commanders got hot under the collar when they heard about the paintings, and immediately ordered that any drawings on Harrier jets be blacked-out to silhouettes only.

RAF Strike Command feared that having too much flesh on display ran the risk of putting off female recruits, who could view the images as sexist.

And in a country where many women wear full burkhas, there was also the worry that pictures offending local culture could spark a diplomatic incident.

Concerned that even the outlines were too provocative, they have now ordered the images be removed completely.

Saints fan Lucy is disappointed the troops weren't allowed to have their fun. Last November she visited Afghanistan with pal Michelle Marsh as part of a morale-boosting tour, and even signed one of the planes carrying her picture.

She was shocked to hear of the enforced cover-up, saying she thought the pictures were "harmless fun".

"It's very flattering, and it's nice that they get to do something that takes their minds off things for a while," the 23-year-old told the Daily Echo.

"It's a shame they've got to change them to silhouettes. Rules are rules, but I don't think it's offensive.

"It's just the way it goes these days. They're doing a very hard job out there and we should all appreciate it.

"It's a very serious situation out there and it's a bit of frivolity, but it's just the lads having a bit of fun and light relief.

"Anything that can cheer them up for a bit must be nice."

Last night RAF bosses defended the ban as entirely appropriate, saying in a statement: "The Royal Air Force values and recognises the contribution of service personnel regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or social background.

"To this end, the RAF promotes working in an environment that is free from harassment and where personnel are respected both for the contribution they can bring to the team and the value and potential they offer as individuals."