RAF Tornado Jets Join the Hunt for Islamic State

RAF Royal Air Force Tornado

Two Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado jets carried out their first combat mission since joining the coalition aimed at taking out the Islamic State (IS). The jets performed reconnaissance tasks during the combat operations, but have yet to become involved in air strikes against the terrorist group.

British Parliament recently authorized the inclusion of the RAF after Britain joined with more than 50 countries led by the United States. The coalition is in search of destroying the terrorist group behind the multiple beheadings of non-combatants, including two American journalists and a British aid worker, and have been putting a strangle hold on the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Syria..

The Ministry of Defense (MOD) reported that the intelligence that the pair of Tornados’ collected would provide invaluable to those searching out IS, who also are known as ISIS and ISIL. The mission the RAF jets were involved in happened after Parliament voted to take action in Iraq only. The vote, 524 to 43, only granted action in Iraq, not in Syria. After their mission, the Tornados returned to their base in Cyprus.

On the mission, the RAF did not identify any targets that were deemed to call for an immediate air strike. The MOD reported that the coalition and Iraqi’s will find the intelligence the Tornados’ surveillance equipment gathered in their first sortie.

The idea behind the U.S. led coalition is to provide air support through intelligence gathering and air strike assistance to forces on the ground as they attempt to drive IS back and bring them to justice. The Islamic State terrorists do not have a defense against the air attacks or the intelligence the RAF Tornados’ have brought since joining the hunt. The air strikes will force the terrorists to move more cautiously and keep their forces spread out in hopes one of the numerous airborne strikes do not take a large group out. This will slow down the progress of IS movements. When ground forces of the coalition move into IS areas, with the threat of the air strikes, the hope is that they will be a much weaker force and not able to put up too much of a fight.

While Tornados from the RAF have flown reconnaissance sortie’s over Iraq for over a month, the missions have moved from intelligence gathering to becoming authorized to strike targets. The Tornados were carrying both missiles and laser-guided bombs. There was never a guarantee that the two Tornados in the air today would fire their ordinance on their mission.

It took the UK over a month after the U.S. launched the first air strikes against IS. The British role in the action against the terrorist group will be minor in comparison to the United States. While neither country is going to be putting boots on the ground in the campaign, the RAF flew the one mission today where the U.S. is flying dozens of missions a day.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron indicated that the RAF Tornados that have joined the hunt for the Islamic State is just the start, that there will be more combat missions to come. This showed a long-term commitment by the Royal Air Force and Britton to the destruction of IS.

By Carl Auer

Sources:
BBC
Sunday Express
CNN
Photo by Richard Fisher – Flickr

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