Royal Air Force Tornado jets leading British strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq will be kept flying for an additional 12 months.
The squadron, which was due to be disbanded in March 2016 and replaced with Typhoon fighters, will continue in service until March 2017 so Britain can maintain the “crucial operational tempo” in the fight against the Sunni insurgent group, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said during a visit to Baghdad on Tuesday.
“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,” he said.
Air strikes against Islamic State, also known as ISIL, are currently restricted to Iraq. In July, Fallon urged British lawmakers to consider extending the air campaign to allow attacks in Syria. This would require the authority of lawmakers.
“The new Parliament will have to reflect on the illogicality of our planes turning back, if you like, at the border, while other countries fly on to deal with ISIL’s headquarters,” Fallon said in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday.
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