The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado GR4 fighters have carried out the first airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.

While conducting an armed reconnaissance mission from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, as part of Operation Shader, the Tornados bombed IS positions for the first time in support of Kurdish troops who were being attacked by the terrorists in the north-west of the country.

The fighters hit a heavy weapons post that was engaging Kurdish forces using a Paveway IV guided bomb, and subsequently bombed an armed pick-up truck in the same area with a Brimstone missile.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "Halting the advance of ISIL and helping the Iraqi Government turn it back, and helping the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces to do that, is a huge task and is going to be a long campaign.

"But the RAF have been flying day and night since Parliament gave that authority last Friday and they have been flying important missions, gathering intelligence, deterrents against ISIL terrorism, driving them back from the villages, as well as being there in close support when they are tasked to go down and help, in particular fighting, and that’s now what they’ve done today."

According to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), an initial assessment indicates that both precision strikes were successful.

"The fighters hit a heavy weapons post that was engaging Kurdish forces using a Paveway IV guided bomb."

In the second set of airstrikes, the two aircraft successfully launched four Brimstone missiles on two vehicles, one of which was an armed pick up truck.

Last week, the UK Parliament authorised the MoD to use fighter jets in Iraq, as part of the international coalition’s operations to support the democratic Iraqi Government.

Since the start of the IS offensive in June, Britain has made humanitarian airdrops to Iraqi refugees, and also coordinated with weapons supplies to the Kurdish authorities.

The US and France have already conducted air raids in Iraq, while Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands have pledged fighter aircraft to counter the terrorist group.

Supported by five Arab countries, the US attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft is also bombing IS positions in Syria, in a bid to limit the group’s ability to lead, control, project power and conduct operations.

Image: An UK Royal Air Force Tornado fighter prepares for takeoff. Photo: library image/© Crown.

Defence Technology