British Royal Air Force Gains First Air to Air Kill in Over 70 Years With Syria Drone Shootdown

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) has gained its first victory in air to air combat since the 1940s, when a Eurofighter Typhoon was confirmed by the Ministry of Defence to have shot down a drone in Syrian airspace. A “small hostile drone” was reported by the ministry to have been neutralised on December 14, although its origin was unknown with the Syrian government, Iran and multiple allied state and non state actors operating unmanned aircraft. Iran has made most extensive use of drones in the theatre, which have clashed with U.S. forces and been fired on by American fighter jets in the past. British aircraft have participated in air to air combat more recently, most notably in the Faulklands War and the Korean War, but these were Royal Navy carrier based jets. Royal Air Force fighters engaged Iraqi aircraft in the air during the 1991 Gulf War on at least one occasion, but the Tornado swept wing fighter involved in the only known engagement was shot down by an Iraqi MiG-29 which denied the RAF what would have been its first air to air victory in over 40 years. The RAF currently operates the large majority of British fighter jets, but this is set to change as most future acquisitions planned are for the Royal Navy’s carrier strike groups

Although the British parliament voted against launching a military intervention in Syria in 2013, British forces initially played supporting roles to operations by Western allies and subsequently participated more directly in a U.S.-led air campaign from the following year. British forces later considered a joint occupation of northern Syria with French support in order to retain Western control of the area should the United States withdraw its own assets. The presence of NATO aircraft in Syrian airspace, and forces on Syrian soil, is widely considered illegal as it has authorisation of neither the United Nations Security Council nor the Syrian government. Britain also participated in U.S.-led airstrikes on Syrian government forces in April 2018, which also lacked a defensive pretext or UN authorisation leading to their widespread international condemnation as crimes of aggression. 

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