The US Government is reportedly exploring options to send V-22 Osprey aircraft to northern Iraq to help improve search and rescue of pilots who go down while conducting airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) militants.
The deployment was requested by the UAE, which halted its air campaign in Syria in December 2014, fearing the safety of its pilots after a Jordanian Air Force pilot was captured by IS militants when his F-16 jet crashed near the capital city of Raqqa on 24 December.
Jordan pilot, first lieutenant Muath Al-Kaseasbeh, was burned alive in a cage by IS, which controls large territories in Iraq and Syria.
According to media reports, the UAE, which was one of the first countries to join the anti-IS coalition, has stated that it will resume its air campaign when the Ospreys are moved out of Kuwait and are based closer to the conflict zones in northern Iraq.
A US defence official said: "There are considerations other than flying distance associated with where we beddown aircraft, including the personnel and logistics needed to sustain operations.
"We continue to evaluate our basing arrangements and will make adjustments as needed."
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The UAE, which continued to provide access to important air bases for US aircraft and other support for the coalition effort, even after suspension, was particularly apprehensive about the US’ ability to assist with downed aircraft.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was quoted by Fox News as saying the Pentagon initiated an ‘intensive airborne search’ immediately after the Jordanian pilot went down.
Meanwhile, Jordan has intensified airstrikes against the terrorist group in Mosul, Iraq, killing 55 militants, including a senior IS commander, according to i24news.
Jordan and UAE are among several countries that have participated in the US-led air campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq since August 2014.
Image: US V-22 Osprey aircraft could be deployed to rescue downed pilots in northern Iraq. Photo: courtesy of US Navy, photo by Paul Farley.