19 July 2015

UK Increasing Its Intelligence Collection Resources in the Middle East to Spy on ISIS

Robert Wall
July 17, 2015

U.K. Ramping Up Intelligence to Win ‘Battle of Britain’ Against Islamic State

LONDON—British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the U.K. was poised to bolster its intelligence-collection capabilities to support coalition strikes against Islamic State targets, having described the fight against the Islamist militants as “a new battle of Britain.”

The U.K.’s Royal Air Force has been among the most active in bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq in recent months. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government is considering whether to hold a parliamentary vote on extending the airstrikes to Syria.

Mr. Fallon said the U.K. contribution went beyond strikes in Iraq from Tornado combat jets and Reaper drones to a range of airborne intelligence collection planes patrolling the skies of the Middle East.

Among the systems being used to find Islamic State targets is the relatively new Airseeker signals intelligence plane, first delivered to the RAF by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. in late 2013.

“Our latest Airseeker plane will be delivered next month, seven months ahead of schedule, and will be operational soon after in the skies above Iraq and Syria,” Mr. Fallon said.

The U.K. has been increasing its rhetoric in the fight against Islamic State, with Mr. Cameron characterizing it as an “existential threat.”

“I believe we are fighting a new battle of Britain,” Mr. Fallon said, calling Islamic State “a fascist enemy.” The U.K. this year commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain when the RAF repelled the German air force in the British skies.

The U.K. has been providing 30% of all coalition intelligence-collection missions to find Islamic State targets, and is the only country to use manned planes in such a role over Syria, Mr. Fallon told the Royal United Services Institute’s annual air power conference.

The intelligence gathered by the fleet of manned and unmanned aircraft is also being used to direct strikes by allies, he said.

British Army Gen. Nicholas Houghton on Tuesday said intelligence-gathering systems have become a priority for the military and would be a focus during the continuing defense review, due for completion in the fall.

“I can’t stress enough the need for a greater qualitative and quantitative invest in intelligence [and] surveillance understanding,” Houghton said.

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