Britain will continue to bomb the Islamic State (ISIS) into 2017, the government has signalled by further extending the life of RAF 12th Bomber Squadron by another year.
Originally stood down and disbanded in March 2014 on the recommendation of the government’s Strategic Defence Spending Review white paper in 2010, the commencement of hostilities by British forces against ISIS in Iraq prompted a change of direction.
Number Two Bomber Squadron Royal Air Force (RAF) was reconstituted as 12 Bomber Squadron with the same equipment and given a new disbandment date of 2016. The acknowledgement that air-superiority Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft intended to replace them are not as effective at taking out ground targets as the Tornados means the squadron has now been given notice that it will not be now stood down until March 2017.
The Guardian reports the comments of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who announced the change of policy. He said that as well as a fighting role the all weather, night and day fighter-bombers were invaluable in intelligence gathering:
“They’ve carried out something like 30 per cent of all the surveillance and intelligence gathering missions. The Americans and other allies have particularly valued the contribution of the Tornado, and that’s why we’re continuing the Tornado squadron for another year.”
Despite the welcome extension, which has been praised by the Chief of the Air Staff and other senior defence officials, the retention of the bombers into 2017 will do nothing to support the RAF into 2019 and beyond. The pace of retiring aircraft will continue to outstrip new ones coming into service.
As reported by Breitbart London last month, by the end of the decade the Tornado force will have been scrapped, as will the first tranche of the Eurofighter jets, leaving the RAF with even fewer aircraft than when it was formed in 1918.
Despite recent government commitments on defence spending, with cuts described by respected military analyst group Jane’s as “perverse”, the RAF’s capability gap between the retirement of early Eurofighters and the last Tornados and the introduction of the American built, but delayed and over-budget F-35 Raptor ‘Lightning II’ fighter-bombers will leave Britain with one of the smallest airforces in the developed world.