British jets armed with missiles are over northern Iraq on their maiden combat mission after taking off from a base in Cyprus.
Two Tornado GR4 fighter jets – armed with missiles for the first time – took off from RAF Akrotiri at 8.30am this morning.
They are being supported by a Voyager refuelling aircraft also based on the island.
The Tornados are carrying Brimstone and Paveway missiles on board and are authorised to fire them if they encounter Islamic State (IS) militants.
Precise details of the mission are still unknown, but they will be flying over Iraq according to the tasking given to them by US Central Command.
It is thought to be a dynamic close air support mission, hitting targets if and when they reveal themselves.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We can confirm that following Parliamentary approval given yesterday, Royal Air Force Tornados continue to fly over Iraq and are now ready to be used in an attack role as and when appropriate targets are identified.
“For operational security reasons we will not be providing a running commentary on movements; we will provide an update on activity when it is appropriate to do so.”
It comes after MPs overwhelmingly backed action in a vote in the House of Commons on Friday.
Parliament gave approval by 524 votes to 43 (a majority of 481) for Britain to join the US-led coalition in the Middle East.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said Britain is ready to play its part in dealing with IS.
He said: “We are one part of a large international coalition. But the crucial part of that coalition is that it is led by the Iraqi government, the legitimate government of Iraq, and its security forces.
“We are there to play our part and help deal with this appalling terrorist organisation.”
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told Sky News Britain would select targets “in accordance with the American and international effort that’s going on in Iraq.
“There’s fighting around these towns – we have to fit in to the day-to-day fighting and see where we can help best,” he said.
The planes have been at RAF Akrotiri for the past six weeks carrying out surveillance missions over the Middle East.
The US has been carrying out airstrikes in northern Iraq since August and France joined the mission last week.
Overnight, the US continued to hit suspected IS positions in Syria for a fifth consecutive day of attacks.
The Pentagon said the raids had disrupted lucrative oil-pumping operations that have helped fund IS militants, but that a final victory would need an on-the-ground campaign.
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