According to a senior Royal Air Force (RAF) officer, British Tornado and Typhoon jets stationed at the RAF airbase in Cyprus have been bombing ISIS positions in Iraq ahead of a major offensive by the Iraqi Army and allied forces next month to recapture the key northern city of Mosul.
Air Commodore Sammy Sampson said Iraqi forces are confident they can retake the country’s second-largest city from ISIS and that British warplanes will provide the needed support to get the job done.
“We’ll stand by them. We’ll support them. We will make it do-able for them,” Sampson told reporters Thursday on a guided tour of the RAF Akrotiri base’s operations.
Sampson said the eight Tornado and six Typhoon aircraft flying out of RAF Akrotiri have in recent days destroyed numerous IS targets to pave the way for the start of the advance on Mosul in the coming weeks. Mosul is the IS group’s last major urban stronghold in Iraq, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad.
The Mosul operation is expected to begin in October according to some U.S. officials.
But Sampson, added that air strikes to start reclaiming territory from IS both in Iraq and Syria are far from new, and that the RAF has been also targeting the Syrian city of Raqqa which is also an ISIS stronghold.
Sampson said air power has made the difference in beating back IS over the last two years as the extremist group has tried to carve a caliphate out of Syria and Iraq.
“I’ve seen air power help transform the situation on the ground,” said Sampson, adding that while IS militants were advancing aggressively two years ago, the group is now “on their heels, and we can see that every day.”
Since the start of the September 2014 air campaign against IS, Typhoon and Tornado jets based at RAF Akrotiri have dropped a combined 1,600 bombs and missiles on IS targets.