David Cameron has flown to Cyprus to meet British aircrew flying bombing missions over Iraq.
The symbolic visit to servicemen stationed at the Akrotiri military base came as the Prime Minister announced that a further two British Tornado jets would be deployed on the Iraqi mission against Isis to provide “enhanced resilience”.
Currently six Tornadoes from Number 2 Squadron are taking part in the Iraqi mission. The Squadron was due to be disbanded next year but will now continue to serve for an extra year. As well as meeting crew, Mr Cameron was also briefed in Cyprus by military commanders in charge of Operation Shader.
The Tornadoes have been carrying out two missions a day against Isis targets since Tuesday, predominantly in support of Kurdish forces in the north-west of Iraq, following a parliamentary vote authorising UK involvement in the international military campaign.
Speaking as he arrived in Cyprus, Mr Cameron said: “Less than a week into combat operations in Iraq, I wanted to come here to thank our troops for the vital work they’re doing to defeat these barbaric Isil [as Isis are also known] terrorists who threaten security not just in Iraq, Syria and the region but on the streets of Britain too. It’s an opportunity to hear directly from them about their operations, the challenges they face and what support they need.
“They’ve already flown a dozen sorties and carried out strikes on four of those missions, successfully hitting eight targets and helping Iraqi forces hold territory but also push back Isil too. We want to make sure that we can keep up this tempo in the days ahead so we will deploy a further two Tornados to Akrotiri in the next 24 hours.
"We will also extend the lifetime of Number Two Squadron for a further year to April 2016 to ensure we can sustain this effort in the months ahead.”
He added: “Obviously, these operations are just one element of our strategy. We are also working hard to deliver a training package for Iraqi forces.
“But today is really about thanking our brave airmen and women. We should never forget the sacrifices they make and the risks they take to make Britain a safer home for all of us and our families.”