UK to extend airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq till 2017
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced the extension of UK airstrikes in Iraq during a visit to the country. (AFP/File)
Michael Fallon, speaking on a trip to Iraq, said the strikes had helped Iraqi forces push militants out of key towns.
"We want to ensure we maintain this crucial operational tempo and so we will extend the lifetime of Number 12 Squadron for a further year to March 2017," he said.
The squadron of Tornado GR4 fighter bombers was originally due to be disbanded last March and replaced with a squadron of Typhoon air defence fighters.
But following the launch of airstrikes against the terror group last September, David Cameron announced they would carry on until March 2016 so they could continue in their specialist ground-attack role.
The second extension for the fighter bombers would ensure the RAF retained "the essential precision firepower, intelligence and surveillance" capabilities needed for operations against IS, Mr Fallon said.
"RAF Tornados have carried out hundreds of strikes, helping Iraqi forces push back IS from the Kurdish region and out of key towns such as Tikrit and Bayji.
We want to ensure we maintain this crucial operational tempo and so we will extend the lifetime of Number 12 Squadron for a further year to March 2017.
This will allow us to sustain our effort, helping the Iraqis lead the fight on the ground," he added.