A team of British military and intelligence officers last week undertook a secret reconnaissance mission to Libya to plan RAF airstrikes against Isis militants in the strife-torn north African state.
Six RAF officers flew to an airbase in eastern Libya, controlled by pro-western militia forces, along with a group of MI6 operatives, diplomats from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and US and French military personnel.
Their mission, near the coastal city of Tobruk, was to build up intelligence on the location of Isis fighters and draw up potential targets for possible British and coalition airstrikes.
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Art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo
The RAF is to set up an elite Top Gun-style squadron to hone the dogfighting skills of its fighter pilots.
After two decades of mainly carrying out bombing missions against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders have decided pilots need to boost their aerial combat skills to counter any potential threat from new Russian fighters that patrol Syria and eastern Europe.
The move is part of the expansion of the RAF’s fleet of Typhoon jets, from five to seven squadrons, announced last November.
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The RAF is planning to spend millions of pounds on a new fleet of executive jets dedicated to flying the royal family, government ministers and military top brass on trips overseas.
Overlooked in last week’s defence review is a controversial plan to replace four BAe 146 jets that make up the so-called “royal flight”, which is provided by the RAF’s 32 (the Royal) Squadron.
RAF sources say that with a range of only 1,800 miles, the existing four-engined aircraft are unable to fly across the Atlantic and need to be refuelled too often when flying beyond Europe. A trip to Dubai needs one refuelling stop, while a trip to Delhi requires two.
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