The UK will extend its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) commitment to Coalition operations in Iraq and Syria, the Defence Secretary has announced.
The deployment of RAF Sentinel aircraft, the most advanced airborne surveillance system of its kind in the world, will be extended until 2016. It is the RAF’s only long-range wide area battlefield surveillance aircraft, using two types of radar it is able to identify and track multiple targets over great distances. Flying three missions a week, the aircraft will continue to provide critical information which allows British and coalition forces to hit ISIL targets on the ground.
The announcement comes as the UK’s involvement in counter-ISIL operations reaches the one year point.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
The fight against ISIL is our top operational priority and Britain is playing a vital role. Our armed forces have conducted more than 300 strikes, flown almost a third of all coalition surveillance flights and trained over 2,000 local troops.
In 2014 ISIL enjoyed near total freedom of movement across much of Iraq but we’ve helped stop the jihadist advance, reclaiming a quarter of ISIL-held territory.
Now we must build on this progress. We will not let up until we have defeated this barbaric terrorist organisation.
On the 26th September 2014 Parliament voted to assist the Iraqi government in their fight against ISIL terrorists. The UK joined a 62 nation Global Coalition made up of international partners including nations from the Middle East, all united in a determination to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.
Since then the UK has provided forces and equipment that few other nations can. Currently there are around 800 personnel, including the Coalition Deputy Commander, supporting the campaign:
RAF Tornados and Reaper equipped with precision munitions, Brimstone and Hellfire missiles and Paveway IV bombs, have conducted more than 300 successful strikes and have flown over 1300 missions.
RAF Reaper, Airseeker and Sentinel aircraft have contributed 30 per cent of Coalition surveillance flights.
We have trained nearly 2000 Iraqi personnel who are taking the fight to ISIL in their own country. This includes leading the Coalition’s counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) training programme – crucial to enabling local forces to deal safely with improvised explosives as they advance on ISIL territory.
We have gifted half a million rounds of ammunition, numerous weapons, 1000 IED detectors and over 50 tonnes of non-lethal support, while RAF transport planes have delivered hundreds of tonnes of equipment gifted by other nations.
With the support provided by Britain, at the heart of the Coalition, Iraqi forces have regained 25 per cent of the territory that ISIL held after its advance last summer. They have taken back 200 square kilometres in the North; retaken Tikrit in the centre, with 100,000 citizens now having returned to the city; and have pushed ISIL out of Diyala province in the East.
For regular air strike updates see: Update: air strikes in Iraq
For more information see ISIL: UK government response page on GOV.UK