Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has closed today’s ministerial in London by reaffirming the UK and Coalition’s resolve to defeat Daesh.
The terrorist organisation is under pressure in both Iraq and Syria, with the Syrian Democratic Forces recently opening up a second front around Raqqa. Daesh have lost 11 cities to Iraqi forces this year, and now hold less than 10% of territory in Iraq.
On the margins of the ministerial meeting, Sir Michael also deepened UK and US defence cooperation by signing an agreement with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter to allow US Marine Corps F-35B aircraft to fly from the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth class carrier. Planning will be advanced to allow US jets to deploy alongside our own Lightning aircraft in HMS Queen Elizabeth during her planned first operational deployment in 2021.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:
As Britain’s pre-eminent operational partner, including in our current fight against Daesh, the inter-operability of British and American forces is crucial.
Having British and US F35s alongside each other aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on its first operational tour, will further cement our close defence ties as Britain steps up internationally.
Britain and America’s longstanding defence and intelligence sharing epitomises the special relationship that helps keeps both our nations safer and more secure.
The announcement will allow UK and US personnel to work even closer together on operations, exercises and training, developing the skills they need for carrier strike operations.
UK pilots, engineers and deck handlers are currently operating from US Navy carriers, already working on these skills, which will be important for when it comes to deploy the new British carriers.
Following the meeting, the Defence Secretary announced that he has agreed to surge the number data recovery experts available to exploit data and technical equipment recovered from Daesh as they are beaten or flee Mosul. The information gleaned will help the Coalition win the battle on the ground, better understand Daesh’s structure and leadership, track UK fighters, and help build the case to prosecute those involved in committing atrocities.
Sir Michael also confirmed an extension by six months of a deployment of a squadron of Royal Engineers, currently helping to build up the training facility at Al Asad airbase in Iraq. The UK has helped to train over 31,000 Iraqi and Kurdish forces, with trainers based at Al Asad playing an important role in developing the Iraqi forces ability to counter-Daesh.