UK — Extra RAF jets being sent to Afghanistan

Two addi­tion­al Roy­al Air Force Tor­na­do jets are being sent to Afghanistan, Defence Sec­re­tary Dr Liam Fox has announced today while vis­it­ing British forces serv­ing in the coun­try.

Tornado GR4 with the Reconnaissance Airborne Pod (RAPTOR)
Tor­na­do GR4 with the Recon­nais­sance Air­borne Pod (RAPTOR) fit­ted beneath the fuse­lage
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Dr Fox, on his sec­ond vis­it to Afghanistan since being appoint­ed Sec­re­tary of State, con­firmed that the two Tor­na­do GR4 air­craft have been sent from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, and are due to arrive at Kan­da­har Air­field tomor­row, Thurs­day 12 August 2010. 

The deploy­ment fol­lows a request by the Com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF), Gen­er­al David Petraeus, for an increase in air sup­port to pro­vide greater pro­tec­tion for ground forces. 

The air­craft will join the eight RAF Tor­na­do GR4s already pro­vid­ing sup­port to the multi­na­tion­al pool and will boost fly­ing hours by 25 per cent, or an extra 130 fly­ing hours per month. 

Dr Fox, cur­rent­ly on his way back to the UK, said before leav­ing Afghanistan: 

“The deploy­ment of these two extra air­craft is anoth­er illus­tra­tion of the UK Government’s com­mit­ment to achiev­ing suc­cess in oper­a­tions in Afghanistan. Tor­na­do GR4s pro­vide essen­tial air cov­er to our Ser­vice per­son­nel on the ground and lead the fight against dead­ly IEDs [impro­vised explo­sive devices] from the air. 

“The intel­li­gence these assets pro­vide to coali­tion forces will enable com­man­ders to have the eyes in the sky that they need to pro­tect their troops and help increase secu­ri­ty for local people.” 

An increase in the num­ber of ISAF and Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces (ANSF) per­son­nel on the ground in south­ern Afghanistan has gen­er­at­ed the require­ment for addi­tion­al air cov­er. The demand for capa­bil­i­ty pro­vid­ed by the fast jets is also expect­ed to increase in the run-up to the Afghan elec­tions in Sep­tem­ber 2010. 

Fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Mar­shal Sir Jock Stir­rup, and the Defence Sec­re­tary have agreed that the extra Tor­na­dos will deploy for three months. 

Joined on the vis­it by the Chief of Joint Oper­a­tions, Air Mar­shal Sir Stu­art Peach, the Defence Sec­re­tary also vis­it­ed for­ward oper­at­ing bases as well as units based at Camp Bas­tion and Kan­da­har Airfield. 

They saw first-hand the train­ing of ANSF, which is ahead of sched­ule and rep­re­sents the key to enabling British forces to even­tu­al­ly leave Afghanistan. 

The lat­est encour­ag­ing fig­ures show that the train­ing of Afghan forces is mak­ing excel­lent progress. Already, 134,000 Afghan sol­diers and 106,000 Afghan police have been trained, putting ISAF ahead of sched­ule for achiev­ing its tar­get of 171,000 ful­ly-trained sol­diers and 134,000 police by the end of 2011. 

The Afghan Nation­al Army has recent­ly planned and exe­cut­ed two major oper­a­tions in the Gereshk area — Oper­a­tion OMID DO and Oper­a­tion OMID SEY — which have proved their abil­i­ty to mount major activ­i­ty with min­i­mal ISAF involve­ment. See Relat­ed News. 

The Defence Sec­re­tary also met the next gen­er­a­tion of Afghan Nation­al Police dur­ing a vis­it to the recent­ly-estab­lished Hel­mand Police Train­ing School, where raw recruits are turned into ful­ly-trained police­men ready for work. The school has just turned out its 1,000th recruit. 

Dr Fox added: 

“The pres­ence of British forces in Afghanistan is an absolute nation­al secu­ri­ty imper­a­tive, but, as both the Prime Min­is­ter and I have said, we do not wish to see our troops remain in the coun­try a moment longer than necessary. 

“The key to bring­ing our per­son­nel home is achiev­ing a sit­u­a­tion where Afghanistan’s own army and police are fit to take over the secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ties we cur­rent­ly per­form. This vis­it has demon­strat­ed to me, beyond any doubt, that this process is well on track. 

“We have seen, with oper­a­tions such as OMID DO and OMID SEY, that the Afghan Nation­al Army is rapid­ly devel­op­ing a for­mi­da­ble capa­bil­i­ty to plan and exe­cute major secu­ri­ty operations. 

“What our ser­vice­men and women have achieved in bring­ing their Afghan part­ners up to such a lev­el of skill is out­stand­ing. Now we have to work with our Afghan part­ners to broad­en their skills even fur­ther to cre­ate a tru­ly high qual­i­ty secu­ri­ty force. 

“Sim­i­lar­ly, I am full of praise for those mem­bers of the Afghan Nation­al Police, and those in train­ing, who I have had the plea­sure of meet­ing. They believe in the future of their coun­try and are pre­pared to stand up and be count­ed by play­ing a key role in their society.” 

As part of the visit’s busy sched­ule, there was also time to see the impact that oth­er new equip­ment is deliv­er­ing to the front line, includ­ing the new fleet of Lynx Mk9A heli­copters that deployed to the coun­try in May 2010. 

The heli­copters, with their increased fire­pow­er, more pow­er­ful engines and the abil­i­ty to oper­ate all year in the harsh ‘hot and high’ Afghan envi­ron­ment have increased the total num­ber of fly­ing hours avail­able to com­man­ders. See Relat­ed News. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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