More RAF Marham Tornado jets to join operations over Libya

Four more RAF Tornado jets will be deployed to Italy to join operations over Libya, the MoD said today.

Tornado jets from Marham were in the skies hours after World leaders agreed the use of force to defend Libyan civilians, at a summit in March.

They flew 3,000-mile sorties from their Norfolk base to target Col Gaddafi's air defences.

Now four more of the jets are set to join the 12 aircraft currently based at Gioia del Colle, in Italy, from where they have been flying armed reconnaissance missions against Libyan tanks and armour.

Today the MoD said the extra aircraft would bolster NATO's reconnaissance capability. The jets' sophisticated aerial imaging equipment can beam back detailed pictures of activity on the ground.

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Maj Gen Nick Pope, the Chief of the Defence Staff's spokesman, said: 'British forces have again been in action over Libya, protecting civilians from the depredations of Colonel Gaddafi's regime.

'Yesterday morning, a Royal Air Force patrol located a BMP armoured personnel carrier near Zlitan, to the west of Misurata. A precision attack by a Typhoon multi-role fighter, using a Paveway guided bomb, successfully destroyed the vehicle.

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'The precision, accuracy and weight of NATO's air strikes have caused significant damage to Gaddafi's regime forces attacking Libyan people - the RAF alone has to date damaged or destroyed more than 500 military targets including command and control sites.

'But, as the campaign has progressed, the regime is increasingly attempting to conceal troops, equipment and headquarters, often in populated areas.

'Gathering the intelligence needed to precisely target these forces remains a key part of NATO's efforts in prosecuting this campaign.

'That is why in the coming days the UK will deploy an additional four RAF Tornado GR4s to Gioia del Colle, primarily in the reconnaissance role to further support this effort.

'As a formidable attack aircraft this deployment will also provide a useful secondary increase to NATO's overall strike capability.

'NATO already benefits from the twelve RAF Tornados already deployed at Gioia del Colle. This latest deployment will bolster NATO's reconnaissance capability. The deployment will have no effect on operations in Afghanistan.'

The latest deployment comes as communities around the Norfolk base anxiously wait to hear whether it has been chosen as the future main home for the RAF's Tornado force.

An announcement is expected on Monday afternoon.

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