The frontline RAF Tornado squadron spearheading Britain’s air campaign against ISIL in Iraq will be maintained in service for an additional year until March 2017 the Defence Secretary has announced.
In a visit to Baghdad, Michael Fallon announced that 12 (Bomber) Squadron will continue to offer the essential precision firepower, intelligence and surveillance needed for the counter-ISIL international coalition to provide vital support to Iraqi ground forces.
With eight Tornados flying daily missions over Iraq the UK is playing a leading role in tackling ISIL. This announcement reaffirms Britain’s commitment to maintain the resilience of the attack, which has seen ISIL lose around 25% of the territory it once held.
Speaking in Iraq today the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
ISIL terrorists pose a threat the security of Iraq, Syria, the wider region and to the streets of Britain. It is therefore our duty to ensure that the UK continues to play its part to defeat this barbaric regime.
Our aircraft have flown thousands of missions and RAF Tornados have carried out hundreds of strikes, helping Iraqi forces push back ISIL from the Kurdish region and out of key towns such as Tikrit and Bayji.
We want to ensure we maintain this crucial operational tempo and so we will extend the lifetime of Number 12 Squadron for a further year to March 2017. This will allow us to sustain our effort, helping the Iraqis lead the fight on the ground.
The Tornado GR4 remains one of the very few aircraft in the world that is able to operate day or night and in poor weather. Equipped with world-class precision-guided Paveway bombs and Brimstone missiles the GR4s offer high precision attacks alongside low collateral damage. It can also be fitted with the RAPTOR reconnaissance pod which greatly increases the effectiveness of the aircraft in a surveillance role.
In response to the announcement, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford said:
The decision to retain the third Tornado GR4 squadron for a further year is welcome news. It is clear that the requirement for fast jet precision strike and intelligence gathering shows no sign of diminishing; extending the life of Number 12 (Bomber) Squadron will allow the Royal Air Force to continue to provide a unique and hugely valuable contribution to the coalition fight against Da’esh. I offer my sincere thanks to all the men and women of the RAF who operate and support this vital capability and for the part they have, and will continue to, play in the campaign.
In his second trip to the country as Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Fallon also met with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi, the Iraqi Defence Minister Khalid Mut’ib Al-Obeidi and the Iraqi National Security Advisor Dr Falih al-Fayyadh to welcome the steps taken on political reform as the UK recognises the fight against ISIL is not one that will be won on the military tract. He also met with US Lieutenant General James Terry Commander of the Coalition Headquarters for an operational update.
For more information see ISIL: UK government response page on GOV.UK