Imagery of the Week: RAF Akrotiri Deployments

DG-23JAN15-RAF-Akrotiri

Recent imagery acquired by DigitalGlobe from January 2015 confirms ongoing deployments to RAF Akrotiri, the UK’s airbase located in Cyprus. The southeast section of the airfield shows three Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules along with four CH-47 Chinook parked at the aircraft dispersal area. The UK reportedly sent the aircraft to support operations in Iraq, also known as Operation Shader. The C-130Js were deployed to the region in August 2014 to drop aid to the Yazidi refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar, while the CH-47s were sent to assist in the potential evacuation of the displaced persons. (The Yazidis have since relocated to Turkey).

Beyond the transport role, a single RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft was also observed refueling in the dispersal area. It is understood to be one of six fighter aircraft based in Cyprus currently carrying out intelligence surveillance reconnaissance and strike missions. RAF Tornados are equipped with DB-110 RAPTOR and Rafael Litening III advanced targeting pods.[1]

Initially, it was widely reported that the UK required the Tornado to scout out potential aid drop sites in order to avoid injuring the refugees. After a Parliamentary vote in September however, the aircraft were conducting strikes against ISIS fighters. According to UK House of Commons documents, the Tornados fly in pairs and conduct up to two sorties a day. The aircraft are then refueled in air by a Voyager KC2/3 tanker-transport before returning to Cyprus. In separate satellite imagery also dated from January, a Voyager KC2/3 was also observed at RAF Akrotiri.

In the meantime, imagery also shows the erection of six new aircraft shelters since early 2014 which further suggests the UK is considering a more long-term deployment. Previous rotations of RAF Typhoons and Tornados were noted in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Notes
[1] Other aircraft assisting UK efforts include a Rivet Joint aircraft and RAF Reaper drones operating from Kuwait.

This entry was posted in Chris Biggers, English, Intelligence, International.

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