Britain offers France use of airbase in Cyprus to support air war on ISIS in Syria

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

About Jacek Siminski 283 Articles
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.

5 Comments

  1. French (and rest of coalition) would benefit more by U.K using the base itself to strike Daech with its Tornados and Reapers than by them renting it.

    However, should british MPs persist in rejecting option to strike in Syria, then it is still quite a solid gift for french operations, because:

    1-Right now CDG carrier is based nearly at the same place, but it’s not due to stay here, as it was originaly planned to ensure continuity of naval task force in the Persian Gulf. Since USS Theodore Roosevelt left in october, CDG is awaited as a replacement, because the USS Harry S.Trumman won’t be on site before early 2016. (note than US navy Hornet and Super Hornet fighters account for approximately 20% of total coalition strikes! So there is a gap to fill indeed.)

    2-Rafale C and B based in Al Dhafra in UAE are really far from lastest targets, mainly in north Syria, meaning logistically and tactically missons lacks flexibility, needing high anticipation, and are long and costly (basically Rafales need to refill from a Tanker every three hours of flight in armed recon config, with missions lasting as much as 8h – and all that sometimes just lurking for an opportunity strike, as the real goal is to maintain continuity of threat for ISIS.)

    3-Logistically Cyprus is far more interesting for crew rotations, logistical support and resuply from France, as well as maintaining easy exchange flexibility from and toward their bases in north Africa (Barkane operation).

  2. Look at the numbers of air strikes against ISIS…we’re bombing them quite enough thanks. But only in Iraq.

  3. I’m
    really disgusted with Germany and UK support ….support to the level of a
    country like Greece or Portugal …. disappointed ….damn Germans …filled
    with cash and going just for reconnaissance.

  4. Germany also wants to enter the games, and sends some Tornados to get pictures with isis.

    It’s getting crowded…

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