The U.K. deployed two Royal Air Force fighter jets equipped with laser-guided bombs and missiles over Iraq Saturday, according to BBC News. This represents the RAF’s first deployment since the U.K. Parliament voted to join the U.S.-led coalition in conducting airstrikes in Iraq on strongholds of the Islamic State group, formerly known as ISIS.
“We can confirm that, following parliamentary approval given yesterday, RAF Tornados continue to fly over Iraq and are now ready to be used in an attack role as and when appropriate targets are identified,” the U.K. defense ministry said.
Six jets were at the RAF Akrotiri base in Cyprus. The U.K.’s jets have conducted reconnaissance missions around Iraq during the six weeks since the U.S. began a bombing campaign targeting the Islamic State group, BBC News reported. France has also joined the campaign and sent six jets over northern Iraq last week, as noted by the Telegraph.
By a 524-to-43 vote Friday, the U.K. Parliament approved military action on Islamic State strongholds in Iraq, but it did not OK such action in Syria. Several countries, including the U.K., have questioned the legality of U.S. airstrikes on the militant group’s strongholds in Syria because the United Nations has not approved the invasion of a technically sovereign country. The U.N. charter requires states “to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force,” unless it for the purpose of protecting international peace.
Iraq was a much easier choice for U.K. legislators to make due to the fact the Iraqi government asked for foreign intervention to fight militants.
The RAF deployment Saturday marked the third time in 25 years that the U.K. has been involved in military operations in Iraq -- and “it’s likely to be the first of many missions,” BBC defense correspondent Jonathan Beale said.
“For operational security reasons, we will not be providing a running commentary on movements,” the U.K. defense ministry said. “We will provide an update on activity when it is appropriate to do so.”