The RAF is deploying in missions over Iraq and Syria all of its 10 Reaper drones, eight Tornado fighters, two Sentinel ground surveillance aircraft, two Sentry E-3D airborne surveillance aircraft, an air-to-air refuelling aircraft, and a turboprop Shadow plane equipped with listening devices.
“We’re delivering in total 30% of the ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] of the whole international operation,” Fallon told a conference on air power run by the Royal United Services Institute thinktank.
The spy planes can communicate with Tornado pilots and with British special forces believed to be on the ground in northern Iraq, and possibly in Syria as well.
Britain is expanding its fleet of surveillance aircraft at a time when the RAF strike wing is under severe pressure. The Tornados, based at Akrotiri in Cyprus, are ageing aircraft, and the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon fighters will not be able to fire precision-guided Brimstone missiles until 2018.
He said: “With more warnings of threats to our citizens in Tunisia following the horrific events of two weeks ago, we’re fighting a new Battle of Britain, once again, against a fascist enemy prepared to kill civilians and opponents alike.”