The UK has stepped up its commitment to the NATO-led campaign to contain Libya's armed forces by adding four Panavia Tornado GR4s to its contribution and placing an equal number of Eurofighter Typhoons at readiness to conduct offensive action.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced the decision to send the four additional Tornado ground-attack aircraft during a 5 April visit to Royal Air Force personnel forward-deployed at Gioia del Colle air base in Italy. Eight GR4s are already at the site and have been used to conduct multiple strikes during action to protect Libyan civilians from attack by forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Recent targets for their MBDA dual-mode Brimstone air-to-surface missiles and Raytheon Systems Paveway IV precision-guided bombs included six armoured fighting vehicles and six main battle tanks that had been positioned near the towns of Misrata and Sirte, the UK Ministry of Defence says.

 Typhoon and GR4 - Crown Copyright
© Crown Copyright
The UK already has Typhoon and Tornado GR4 aircraft in place in Italy

Separately, the MoD announced on 5 April that some of its eight Gioia del Colle-based Typhoons have for the first time been made available to conduct strikes against land-based targets in Libya.

"In agreement with NATO, the UK has today agreed to move four RAF Typhoons from an air defence role, policing the no-fly zone, to a ground attack role," it says. "As a result, the total number of UK fast jets deployed in southern Italy, including those under UK command on standby to support operations, currently stands at 20."

Operations with the UK's deployed Typhoons have until now been limited to supporting the enforcement of the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya. Approval for some of the aircraft to perform air-to-surface missions could lead to them using their Raytheon Paveway II/Enhanced Paveway II precision-guided bombs in anger for the first time.

 RAF Typhoon bombs - Crown Copyright
© Crown Copyright

Source: Flight International