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article imageSyrian jets prompt RAF to scramble Cyprus-based fighters

By Robert Myles     Sep 8, 2013 in World
Akrotiri - An incident last Monday illustrated just how easily UK forces could become involved should President Obama elect to proceed with ‘limited and narrow’ strikes against the regime of Syria’s President Assad.
On August 29, the UK Parliament voted against the United Kingdom participating in any punitive military action against Syria but if President Obama decides to proceed, even with limited force, against Syrian military targets, British forces might nevertheless find themselves involved even if only in a defensive capacity.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence has confirmed that two RAF Typhoon interceptor jets were scrambled from the Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri on the island of Cyprus. The Typhoon fighters were sent to investigate Syrian planes that had crossed into international airspace. The RAF base at Akrotiri is located near the southernmost point of the Mediterranean island, a short distance south of the town of Limassol, just 200 miles from Syria.
According to the Ministry of Defence, the inbound aircraft had strayed too close to be ignored. The Syrian jets retreated before any action was taken. Two Turkish Air Force F-16s are also reported to have taken to the air in support from their base at Incirlik in southern Turkey.
Reported on Breakingnews, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said, "The MoD can confirm that Typhoon Air Defence Aircraft operated from RAF Akrotiri on Monday to investigate unidentified aircraft to the east of Cyprus; the aircraft were flying legally in international airspace and no intercept was required."
On August 29, the UK Parliament voted against UK involvement in any punitive military action against Syria in retaliation for Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad having allegedly launched chemical weapons attacks at Ghouta, near Damascus, on August 21. As a result of the UK House of Commons vote, Number 10 Downing Street, the office of the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced last week that the UK did not expect military bases like RAF Akrotiri to be used by allies in any air strikes.
Notwithstanding the UK vote, and the views expressed by 10 Downing Street, on the same day the House of Commons vote took place, the UK Ministry of Defence announced the deployment of six additional RAF Typhoon combat aircraft to the Akrotiri base in Cyprus. RAF Akrotiri is used by the Royal Air Force for training purposes and also as a base for Middle East operations.
The Ministry of Defence described the bolstering of the UK’s military presence on Cyprus as, “a precautionary measure, specifically aimed at protecting UK interests and the defence of our Sovereign Base Areas at a time of heightened tension in the wider region.”
The statement went on to say the additional defensive assets would operate in an air-to-air role only and had not been moved to the island to participate in any military action against Syria.
Although the Ministry of Defence has referred to a restricted role for the additional Typhoons recently stationed at Akrotiri, the aircraft is known for its versatility. The MoD website describes the Typhoon as providing the Royal Air Force, “with a multi-role combat aircraft, capable of being deployed in the full spectrum of air operations, from air policing, to peace support, through to high intensity conflict.”
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