UK deploys Reaper and Rivet Joint aircraft for surveillance missions over Syria
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is deploying MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft and RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft to support a US-led coalition in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria.
UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a written statement to Parliament that the two aircraft will conduct surveillance missions over Syria.
"The deployment will see the Royal Air Force aircraft gathering intelligence as the UK ramps up efforts to protect our national interests from the terrorist threat emanating the country.
"Reapers are not authorised to use weapons in Syria and, alongside Rivet Joint, will provide vital situational awareness making it an invaluable asset to the coalition allies who are combating ISIL."
The RAF currently has ten Reapers in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, which are operated from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, UK.
While Reapers currently do not have permission to fire at militants in Syria, the UK Government insists that a parliamentary approval would be sought to launch strike missions in the country, if necessary.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said: "We've also made clear that, if there was a critical national interest at stake or we needed to act swiftly to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, we would act immediately and explain to Parliament afterwards."
Since last month, the UK Tornado GR4 fighters from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, are conducting airstrikes on multiple IS targets in northern Iraq.
The UK announcement coincides with the departure of six Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft to Kuwait, to fight against the terrorist organisation.
As part of Operation IMPACT, Canada is also deploying one CC-150T Polaris aerial refueller, two CP-140M Aurora surveillance aircraft, and 600 personnel, including aircrew support elements, such as command-and-control and logistics.
Meanwhile, the US has announced that the IS fighters might have gained access to US weapons that were air-dropped for the Kurdish forces in the Syrian border city of Kobane.
The militant group has posted a video online that showed some of its fighters with alleged US weapons, including hand grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Pentagon press secretary Navy rear admiral John Kirby said: "They are - they are certainly of the - of the kinds of material that was dropped, was small-arms ammunition and weaponry.
"So it's not out of the realm of the possible in that regard.
"But, again, we're taking a look at this, and, you know, we just don't know. And when we have something definitive that we can provide in terms of an assessment on that, we'll do that."
Image: Britain is deploying MQ-9 Reaper and RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft for surveillance missions over Syria. Photo: Crown ©.