Iraq campaign delays disbandment of Marham squadron

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A West Norfolk MP has called for the temporary reprieve given to one of RAF Marham’s Tornado squadrons last week to be made permanent.

The base’s No 2 Squadron, which had been due to be disbanded next spring, will now continue to fly until the spring of 2016, as part of the ongoing campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said he welcomed the announcement, which was made by prime minister David Cameron on Thursday.

But he now wants the decision to disband the unit, made in the 2010 Strategic Defence Review, to be overturned, in the light of the developing security situation, which he believes has made the world more dangerous in recent years.

He said: “The world has changed since the Strategic Defence Review. I am pushing for that very hard.”

Mr Cameron made the announcement during a visit to British troops at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, from where Marham crews have been taking part in bombing raids on targets in northern Iraq, after Parliament approved the action last month.

He said the move was being made to help sustain the air campaign against the extremists, who are also know is Isil or Isis, over the coming months.

He added: “I wanted to come and thank the pilots and the ground crews for the absolutely essential and difficult and dangerous work they are doing over the skies of Iraq.

“Remember, Isil is not just a threat in Iraq and Syria, it is a threat to the streets of Britain. That is why we are here. That is why we are doing this.”

He later told troops at the Camp Bastion base in Afghanistan, which is due to close as part of the withdrawal of British forces from the country by the end of the year, that they were engaged in the “struggle of our generation” against the militants.

A further two Tornado planes were also sent to Cyprus over the weekend, increasing the number of British planes taking part in the American-led operation to eight.

In their latest operations on Sunday night, they targeted militants who were firing at Iraqi government forces near to the town of Ramadi.

An RAF spokesman said: “RAF Tornado GR4s deployed to RAF Akrotiri in mid-August in a purely intelligence and surveillance role.

“Since then we have been looking at ensuring the resilience of this deployment to ensure we are able to maintain support to the Iraqi government by ensuring operational patrols alongside our international allies.”