UK

RAF Jets Went To Iraq But Couldn't Find Anything To Bomb

27/09/2014 18:19 BST | Updated 27/09/2014 18:59 BST

RAF warplanes returned to base having found nothing suitable to bomb in their first sortie over Iraq since Parliament gave the green light for air strikes on Islamic State militants.

Two RAF Tornado GR4 fighter bombers returned to their base at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus at the end of a seven hour mission with their weapons payload intact.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Although on this occasion no targets were identified as requiring immediate air attack by our aircraft, the intelligence gathered by the Tornados' highly sophisticated surveillance equipment will be invaluable to the Iraqi authorities and their coalition partners in developing the best possible understanding of Isil's disposition and help acquire potential targets for future operations, either by aircraft or Iraqi ground forces."

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Ministers had cautioned not to expect a campaign of "shock and awe" and that after weeks of US air strikes in the area it could take time to identify new targets.

"We know that the very presence of coalition air power over Iraq has a significant impact on Isil's efforts to attack the Iraqi people," the MoD spokesman said.

"With no effective defence against air strikes, and knowing the precision with which coalition aircraft can hit them, the terrorists are forced to be much more cautious, keeping their forces dispersed and movement inhibited.

"They also know that should they concentrate to deliver an attack against Iraqi or Kurdish troops, aircraft are likely to arrive overhead very soon afterwards."

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Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircrew preparing to depart RAF Akrotiri Cyprus ahead of the RAF's first combat mission against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq

raf

Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircrew preparing to depart RAF Akrotiri Cyprus ahead of the RAF's first combat mission against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq

The two Tornados which carried out the mission were supported by a Voyager air-to-air fuelling tanker.

The RAF has had six of the fighter bombers stationed at Akrotiri since mid August, but until yesterday's Commons vote they were restricted to reconnaissance flights.

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While the failure to identify any suitable target may have seemed like an anti-climax after the drama at Westminster, David

Cameron insisted the involvement of RAF combat aircraft showed Britain was there to "play our part" in the international coalition being assembled against IS

"We are one part of a large international coalition," the Prime Minister said during a visit to Didcot, Oxfordshire, ahead of the Conservative Party conference.

"But the crucial part of that coalition is that it is led by the Iraqi government, the legitimate government of Iraq, and its security forces. We are there to play our part and help deal with this appalling terrorist organisation."