In 2013 the British parliament voted against conducting air strikes against Islamic extremist forces in Syria but nevertheless it has now been revealed that RAF pilots embedded with coalition allies’ forces have been conducting air strikes over the war torn country against Islamic State. The news that RAF pilots flying with the American, Canadian and French armed forces has been greeted with hostility by the political opposition and also from members of the ruling Conservative party who view the practice as Prime Minister David Cameron circumventing the vote. Speaking on the Russian owned RT UK news channel former British politician George Galloway accused the British government’s foreign policy of being hypocritical and a sham.
Having been accused of such dishonest conduct Defence Secretary Michael Fallon defended having British pilots flying for allies claiming it was;
…standard operating practice.
Britain and its NATO allies have since the alliance was founded routinely exchanged military personnel amongst its armed forces. The point of such exchanges is to observe how each armed forces operate and to then develop universal operating principles to keep the alliance coherent when undertaking operations. One of the prerequisites of such exchanges is that the individual involved is no longer under his/her own country’s national control but rather under the chain of command of the host nation. Therefore if a British pilot was attached to a French squadron and that squadron was then deployed on operations then that individual would be exercising French foreign policy not British.
The same has happened in recent years with foreign nationals flying combat missions on behalf of the Royal Air Force. During operations over Iraq one RAF Tornado GR.4 mission was flown by an All-American crew with a US Navy pilot and Weapon Systems Officer on exchange with the same squadron. Britain’s unique history with its former colonies has even seen Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force pilots joining its ranks to fly combat missions and even fly with the Red Arrows display team.