British fighter jets are expected to start their operations against Islamic State (Isis) positions in Syria within a matter of hours. It has been reported that the fighter jets have taken off from the RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus on Thursday (3 December) shortly after Parliament voted in favour of bombing Isis targets in Syria.
Four jets left in pairs within an hour of each other from the airbase. Their destination was not immediately known and there was no comment from British authorities, Reuters reported. However Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said that RAF jets and drones are ready to launch airstrikes "very quickly."
RAF Akrotiri has been used as a launchpad for attacks on Isis targets in Iraq for just over a year. Late Wednesday night, after more than 10 hours of debate, the UK Parliament widened the target area to cover Isis bases in Syria.
Cyprus, which is about 100 km away from Syria, is the closest European member state to the war-ravaged Middle east country. The UK has two sovereign military bases in Cyprus.
Sky News said its sources have said that two RAF Tornado jets have taken off from Cyprus for the "operating area". The aircraft carry a range of ammunition, including Paveway IV guided bombs and precision guided Brimstone missiles.
ITV news said that additional Typhoon jets from RAF Lossiemouth in northeast Scotland will join the RAF Tornados currently operating at the RAF Akrotiri. Germany's parliament is also expected to vote on Friday (4 December) in favour of joining the US-led campaign against Isis. It is seeking to provide only military support for air strikes and not actually participate in the strikes.
The TImes, which had been given access to the RAF Marham in Norfolk before the House of Commons vote, said there was a sense of calm among the crew despite being put on alert to move. Crew members have told family members that they were likely to be flying over Syria within days.
An extra 120 aircrew, including pilots, engineers and logisticians, will fly to Cyprus to boost the 450-strong team that is already conducting air campaigns in Iraq. A further six Typhoon jets will join the eight Tornado jets at the Cyprus base.