French combat aircraft may use RAF Akrotiri base, in Cyprus, to launch air strikes on IS.
In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, Britain has offered France the use of its airbase in Cyprus, strategically located on the island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Syria, to support air strikes on ISIS.
Primarily, the base is going to act as a reserve diversion airfield for the jets operating from the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle that has been operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, from where it launched the first raids against ISIS earlier this week.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said:
“This offer is another demonstration of our solidarity with our French allies. It is right that we do all we can to help them hit ISIL harder. Meanwhile, we will continue to strike this vile organization in Iraq and build the case for extending those strikes to Syria.”
At the moment, a dozen French Rafale and Mirage 2000 jets are supporting Operation Chammal from Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan and Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE. This component is supplemented by another 20 jets based on the CDG aircraft carrier, operating in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to The Telegraph, David Cameron claimed that Great Britain is going to do “all in its power”, supporting France in the struggle against ISIS, in a response to the Paris acts of terror. The proposal emerged after the meeting of the British PM David Cameron and Francois Hollande, the French President
The RAF has been using its Cyprus airbase to conduct airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq since September 2014. Tanker and reconnaissance aircraft are also stationed there.
Interestingly, this is not the first time the French are using the British Airbase in Cyprus in cooperation with the Royal Air Force. During the Suez Crisis, in 1956, the air forces of both countries were stationed in Cyprus, launching air strikes against Egypt and flying sorties, the aim of which was to neutralize the Egyptian Air Force.
In 2012, Akrotiri airbase was “targeted” by Syrian Su-24 Fencer attack jets launched by Assad to probe the local air defenses. As we commented back then, buzzing the enemy airspace to test its reaction time or actively disturbing the enemy training activities is not rare. Much rare are actual engagements, like the one that saw a Russian Su-24 shot down by TuAF F-16 yesterday along the Turkey-Syria border).
Image Credit: Dassault Aviation