The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is deploying MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to the Middle East, in an effort to better combat the Islamic State (IS) fighters in the region.

Expected to start operations shortly, the Reapers would provide additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support to the Iraqi Government and coalition allies in their fight against the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "The surveillance capability of Reaper will see it provide vital situational awareness, making it an invaluable asset to the Iraqi Government and the coalition allies in helping counter the threat from ISIL and supporting our vital interests in the area.

"If strike operations are required then Reaper has the ability to complement the sorties RAF Tornados have already completed."

While the MoD refused to share details on the number of Reapers to be deployed and the location, local media reported that two of the Royal Air Force (RAF) RPAS would be moved from their existing location in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Iraq in the coming weeks.

The RAF currently has ten Reapers in Afghanistan, which are operated from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, UK.

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Since last month, the RAF Tornado GR4 fighters are conducting airstrikes on multiple IS ISIL targets in northern Iraq, operating from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

"The surveillance capability of Reaper will see it provide vital situational awareness, making it an invaluable asset to the Iraqi Government."

The Reaper deployment coincides with the conclusion of the first UK training programme for Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.

During a week-long course run by the 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment personnel, 40 Peshmerga fighters were instructed on the use of heavy machine guns gifted by the UK in September.

In a separate development, Turkey has reportedly authorised the US to launch unmanned flights over Syria from Incirlik Airbase, which has been a focal point of discussions between US and Turkish authorities in recent weeks.

However, the country restricted the use of manned aircraft from the base, The Daily Beast reported.

Last week, the US National Security Adviser Susan Rice claimed that Turkey had agreed to allow the use of Incirlik airbase for the aerial bombardment against IS, which was immediately denied by the country.

Image: The Middle East deployment represents the first operational use of UK Reaper drones outside Afghanistan. Photo: Crown ©.

Defence Technology