The United Kingdom is to deploy Tornado GR4 strike aircraft to Iraq to provide vital surveillance capabilities.

It’s being reported that the jets are being sent to provide intelligence on areas where military aid flights are dropping supplies to thousands trapped without water or food. This comes as a British Hercules had to abort two attempts to drop aid for Yazidi refugees amid fears that the drops could have hit people on the ground.

In order to do this, the aircraft will use the LITENING targeting pod. It is an Israeli-designed precision targeting pod system currently operational with a wide variety of combat aircraft around the world.

LITENING was used extensively by British forces in Afghanistan and Iraq previously. The pods have notched 30,000 flying hours with the RAF.

LITENING targeting pod
LITENING targeting pod

A cross-party coalition of MPs, led by the former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw and the former Tory armed forces minister Andrew Robathan, is calling for Britain to join the US strikes against the Islamic State forces.

Andrew Robathan, leader of a cross party coalition of MPs, is calling for Britain to join US strikes against the Islamic State forces.

“They have to look at what further action we could take by way of military assistance. Not talking about boots on the ground, there are other things we could do. One way or another, these maniacs, these medieval maniacs, in the so-called Islamic State, have got to be defeated. There can be no real help for the people of Iraq that are threatened by Isis without stopping its advance. That is what anybody who is worried about the humanitarian situation has to admit.

We have to realise it is no good just sending aid. The real solution is to stop these people and hopefully allow the Iraqis and the Kurds to defeat them. There are many ways one could use military strikes – air strikes or the use of drones can be done fairly surgically without putting troops on the ground. We had our fingers pretty badly burnt in Iraq, as did the Americans.”

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:

“We are providing humanitarian assistance. This is not simple – getting it in is very challenging, getting people off that mountain is even more challenging – and the meeting we had this morning in Cobra looked at all the options available to us to step up our humanitarian support, including obtaining better situational awareness of what’s going on the mountain, both to facilitate the air drops and to start planning how we are going to get people out.

We don’t envisage a combat role at the present time. We are talking at the moment about a humanitarian operation and using our assets to gain more awareness of what’s going on this mountain – where people are, how we can get supplies into them and how we can help to get them out.”

His comments came as many MP’s called for British air strikes on Islamic State targets. The next air drop of humanitarian aid in northern Iraq is likely to be carried out within the next 24 hours.

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