ISIS has launched an offensive in Libya to take control of the country’s lucrative oil ports in the wake of British and coalition airstrikes on their oil installations in Syria. ISIS have made claims that they overran the coastal town Bin Jawad on Monday and will soon take the key oil depot at Sidra. ISIS claimed the victory in the name of Abu Mughira al-Qahtani, a militant previously referred to as the new leader of ISIS in Libya.
Sidra is Libya’s biggest oil depot producing up to around half a million barrels of oil a day. Oil has been vital revenue for keeping the brutal organization operational which is why RAF combat aircraft have given their oilfields in Syria such special attention.
Footage has also appeared on the internet of a Libyan air force warplane apparently being shot down in Benghazi. British special forces are already operational in Libya and there has been talk in London of up to 1,000 British troops being put on the ground to combat ISIS.
A pair of Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon FGR.4s blasted an ISIS bunker in northern Iraq on Friday with laser guided bombs. The use of Typhoons over Iraq comes as the aircraft was deployed to Cyprus following the expansion of airstrikes in to neighbouring Syria requiring a bolstering of the small Tornado GR.4 force based at RAF Akrotiri that was previously committed to operations over Iraq.
Meanwhile across the border, Tornado GR.4s supported by Reaper drones conducted strikes against mortar positions established by ISIS. They also targeted a building that was being held by the terror group while Reapers fired Hellfire missiles at an ISIS convoy destroying up to three vehicles.
Further airstrikes have also been carried out against ISIS oil refineries with Tornado aircraft hitting a site in eastern Syria. All operations have been supported by Voyager tanker aircraft and Sentinel R.1 reconnaissance aircraft.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon described the first full week of operations over both Syria and Iraq as a “fairly impressive start”.
In the early hours of Saturday morning a pair of RAF Typhoon FGR.4s joined two Tornado GR.4s on a strike over Syria. The Typhoons had barely been at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus for 24 hours before they launched their first mission attacking another of the so-called Islamic State’s oilfields in an effort to financially starve the terrorist group. The RAF has also confirmed that they have flown their first drone missions over Syria.
At present the Royal Air Force have deployed to RAF Akrotiri
10 Tornado GR4 strike aircraft
6 Typhoon FGR.4 multi-role combat aircraft
10 Reaper reconnaissance and attack drones
2 RC-135W Rivet Joint electronic intelligence gathering aircraft operating from the UK
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.
French Mirage 2000Ds have been flown by British pilots (commons.wikimedia)
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.