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RAF jets leave Scotland to join Syria action

media captionThe six Typhoons left RAF Lossiemouth shortly after 08:00

Six Typhoon jet fighters have arrived in Cyprus after leaving RAF Lossiemouth in Moray to join UK air strikes against the Islamic State terror group.

The aircraft left the Scottish base from 08:00. They arrived at RAF Akrotiri at 14:20.

MPs voted by 397 to 223 in favour of extending military action to target IS in Syria as well as Iraq.

RAF Tornados based at Akrotiri carried out their first air strikes against IS in Syria just hours after the vote.

The BBC understands that the strikes focused on six targets in an oil field under IS control in eastern Syria, as part of the strategy to deprive the terror group of funding.

An RAF Airbus A400M tactical transport aircraft has also left RAF Lossiemouth. It is taking engineers, ground staff and maintenance supplies to service the fighter jets stationed in Cyprus.

Two Tornados based at RAF Marham in Norfolk have also been sent to Cyprus to bolster the base.

The SNP earlier condemned the House of Commons vote to allow the UK to launch air strikes in Syria, with the party's Westminster leader Angus Robertson - whose constituency includes Lossiemouth - saying: "Scotland has been dragged into a war with no exit strategy."

All but two of Scotland's MPs - Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael and Conservative David Mundell - opposed the motion to allow air strikes.

During a 10-hour debate in the Commons on Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron argued that action against the "medieval monsters" of IS was legal and would "keep our country safe".

image copyrightPA

Craig Anderson, BBC Scotland reporter at RAF Lossiemouth

There isn't much intelligence, clearly, as a lot of what is happening inside the perimeter fence is confidential.

Anecdotally, people here have said there has been an increased level of activity, both in the skies above Moray and also around the Tain bombing range which is just across the Moray Firth from here, in the last few weeks.

So clearly the RAF knew that the possibility was there - that they would be authorised to carry out increased bombing raids in Syria and also in Iraq.

The irony, I suppose, for people here is that RAF Lossiemouth is in the Moray constituency of the SNP's leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson.

He was one of the key signatories to the opposition motion which rejected the idea of airstrikes against IS targets in Syria.

Mr Robertson said this morning that the personnel here at the base are well aware of his political views, but on a personal level he wished those involved in the air strikes a safe return

media captionKey moments from the day's debate in the Commons

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that the case for war "does not stack up" - a view endorsed by Scotland's only Labour MP Ian Murray.

But Labour was split over the issue. Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn was applauded, particularly by Conservative MPs, when he urged his own side to "confront this evil" posed by IS.

The BBC understands 66 Labour MPs sided with the government in backing military action.

The SNP voted against air strikes, with Angus Robertson arguing there was no comprehensive strategy in place to defeat IS and bring stability to the region.

A petition on the SNP website opposing air strikes in Syria been signed more than 67,000 times.

He said: "Tonight the UK parliament gave the green light to continue a complex and deadly conflict without a comprehensive plan for peace and reconstruction.

image captionAn RAF Airbus A400M tactical transport aircraft has also left Lossiemouth
image captionRAF Tornados already based at the Akrotiri base in Cyprus have carried out strikes against an IS-held oil field in Syria
media captionThe BBC's Jonathan Beale on the runway as the first pair of Tornados returned: "Paveway bombs have clearly been fired"

"Despite 72% of Scots being opposed, and the vast majority of Scottish MPs voting against, we will likely see planes deployed from Lossiemouth to drop bombs on the region. In normal circumstances, in a normal country, the armed forces would not be deployed.

"We are all committed to destroying Daesh [an alternative name for Islamic State] - it is about how best we do that. David Cameron has neither answered the questions about where the 70,000 ground forces are coming from, or given an insight into any plan on how to stabilise and rebuild the region."

The Liberal Democrats were split on the issue, with two of the party's eight MPs voting against David Cameron's motion.

What is the Eurofighter Typhoon?

image copyrightGetty Images
  • Engines: 2 Eurojet EJ200 turbojets
  • Thrust: 20,000lbs each
  • Max speed: 1.8Mach
  • Max altitude: 55,000ft
  • Aircrew: 1
  • Armament: Paveway IV, AMRAAM, ASRAAM, Mauser 27mm Cannon, Enhanced Paveway II

Typhoons are the newest, fastest jets that the RAF have in service. They are equipped with very sophisticated, precision-guided weapons, high-tech surveillance and reconnaissance equipment.

The Typhoon, which entered service with the RAF in 2007, was originally designed as an air-to-air combat fighter, rather than for ground attacks. After modifications, the jets were upgraded to carry Paveway guided bombs in 2008, but they are not yet capable of carrying the Brimstone missiles - a highly accurate weapon carried by the RAF's older Tornado aircraft and against vehicles and multiple targets.

RAF Typhoons saw action for the first time in 2011 when they were involved in policing a no-fly zone over Libya, and bombed ground vehicles loyal to Colonel Gaddafi.

The Typhoon is also in use by the German, Italian, Spanish, Austrian and Royal Saudi airforces.

But former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said he was persuaded there was a case to extend military action into Syria.

He said: "For me, the important things were that we had legal authorisation from the United Nations Security Council and you have a very clear identifiable British national interest here to defend.

"Think of the attacks in Paris and Beirut and Sharm el-Sheikh. Look what has happened this summer with the refugee crisis in Europe - people fleeing the civil war in Syria and the participation of Daesh in that."

Seven Conservative MPs voted against the planned military action but the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale MP David Mundell was not among them.

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  • UK air strikes on IS in Syria