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RAF stealth fighter jets to ‘keep UK safe’ by fighting remaining ISIS forces

Eight UK stealth fighter jets are preparing to "pack a potent punch" against ISIS, The Ministry of Defence has said.

The F35B Lightning jets, currently onboard the £3 billion warship HMS Queen Elizabeth, will join the fight as part of Operation Shader from the Carrier Strike Group (CSG21).

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said he was in no doubt "violent extremism and the toxic ideology underpinning it is still rooted" in the region – adding: "I'm absolutely clear in my mind that what we are doing every day… is making the streets of the UK safer."

The renowned "Dambusters" squadron, or 617 Squadron, is set to operate the jets to support the counter-IS operations in Iraq and Syria.

RAF jets will be joined by 10 US Marine Corps F35B stealth fighter jets will be operating from onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will head for Asia accompanied by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters, and a company of Royal Marines.

Speaking about the upcoming operation, Sir Mike said: "We're going to conduct operations in support of the Government of Iraq, fighting the remnants of Daesh [ISIS] in Iraq and Syria – and continuing to take the fight to them in their sanctuary where otherwise they would be threatening the streets of the United Kingdom and our allies.

"It's something that airpower has been doing very effectively now since 2014 and the Royal Air Force has played a considerable part in that success."

He continued: "Daesh is no longer the ground-holding force, the occupying force, that it was in 2015 and 2016.

"For the last two years, we have been identifying pockets where they have dug into strongholds in the mountains in remote areas, and have been helping the Government of Iraq to clear out those remnants.

"But I'm in no doubt that the violent extremism and the toxic ideology underpinning it is still rooted in that region.

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"So we still have an important role and I'm absolutely clear in my mind that what we are doing every day – and I have a Typhoon squadron and other aircraft deployed already, and have done for many years – is making the streets of the UK safer by taking the fight to the violent extremists in their sanctuaries in Iraq and Syria."

The F35B jets are multi-role combat aircraft equipped with advanced sensors, mission systems, and stealth technology – enabling them to carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tasks.

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Asked if he saw an end date in sight in the fight against IS, Sir Mike said: "I am hugely encouraged by the progress and the skill and sophistication of the Iraqi security forces

"Their ability to take full responsibility for the security of their sovereign territory is becoming stronger day by day.

"Ultimately that will be the point where the support of allies like the United Kingdom and the United States and others is no longer necessary.

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"I wouldn't like to put a date on it, but I have great faith in the progress the Iraqi forces are making."

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said the stealth fighter jets joining the fight against IS is "global Britain in action".

Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, added: "This deployment represents the embodiment of the UK's joint expeditionary capability, and utilising the F35Bs in the fight against Daesh will further demonstrate our commitment to securing their global defeat."

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