Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) is planning to withdraw eight Tornado GR4s used in operations in Syrian and Iraqi skies, the Daily Mail reported. Six Typhoon jets and up to 10 MQ-9 Reaper drones will remain stationed in the Middle East region.
Initially, the RAF was planning to replace the ageing Tornados with newer jets in March 2019, but according to the Daily Mail, citing an anonymous source in the British defence forces, the withdrawal of the US from Syria has made them change their minds. Additionally, the remaining Typhoons are scheduled for an upgrade allowing them to deploy bunker buster Storm Shadow and Brimstone air-to-ground missiles.
The upgrade is reportedly aimed at preparing the jets to conduct airstrikes against targets in the Damascus area that allegedly contain chemical weapons. An anonymous source in the RAF has told the Daily Mail that the Typhoons' upgrade also should show the Syrian government that the UK has the capability of striking the country's military objects.
The UK along with France, and the US conducted a massive airstrike on Syria on 14 April 2018 in response to a chemical attack in Douma, allegedly conducted by Damascus. The incident, which was used as a pretext for the strike, had been reported by the controversial NGO "White Helmets", who have repeatedly been caught staging false flag attacks.
The report about the possible reduction of RAF forces operating in Syria and Iraq comes in the wake of the US withdrawal from the Arab Republic, announced in December 2018. US President Donald Trump stated at the time that American troops had achieved their goal of eliminating Daesh* and thus could return home.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organization banned in Russia