As British Prime Minister David Cameron and British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon carry out their assault on the House of Commons in order to garner enough support for airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, damning reports have begun leaking out over the state of the RAF’s Panavia Tornado GR.4 fleet. Until the Typhoon’s air to ground capability is brought up to full specification the 30+ year old Tornado GR.4s remain the primary offensive weapon in the RAF’s inventory and has been ever since the premature retirement of the Harrier GR.9 in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Julian Lewis, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, has stated that Britain’s fleet of mission-ready Tornados was so small that it could only make a ‘marginal’ contribution to operations over Syria given that eight aircraft are already heavily committed to operations over Iraq from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. Military analysts have said that an additional 16 aircraft would have to be deployed to Cyprus to contribute effectively to the operations over Syria and maintain operations over Iraq. This figure covers aircraft actually on-mission, back-ups and on the ground receiving maintenance.
RAF sources have said that up to four aircraft are already prepared to deploy to Cyprus if the order is given with more to follow.