Dr Liam 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, arriving at Kandahar Airfield tomorrow (Thursday 12 August).
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 to ground forces. The aircraft will join the eight RAF Tornado GR4s already provided to support the multinational pool and will boost flying hours by 25 per cent, or an extra 130 flying hours per month.
Tornado GR4 with Raptor Reconnaissance Pod
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 leading the fight against deadly IEDs 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.”
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.
Dr Liam Fox is shown around a Tornado GR4
They saw first hand today the training of Afghan National Security Forces, 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 policemen 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.