The US has deployed AV-8B Harriers fighter jets to support Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) in its fight against the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq.
The Harriers from the US Marine Corps (USMC) Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM)162 will conduct their first missions over Iraq.
VMM-162(REIN) is the aviation combat element of the 26th MEU, currently embarked with the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
Additionally, the ARG-MEU team of marines and sailors are deployed throughout the region to carry out missions in support of OIR, including theatre security cooperation and maritime security operations.
Kearsarge ARG commander captain Augustus P Bennett said: "The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group with the embarked 26th MEU, along with our coalition partners, are here to degrade and destroy ISIL’s current operations under OIR.
"The combined ARG-MEU team is an expeditionary Navy/Marine Corps force that stands ready and has been trained for these types of operations. We’re here to assure our allies, deter any adversaries and provide a persistent US presence here in the US 5th Fleet area of operations."
In October, the last naval aviation missions in support of OIR were conducted from USS Essex (LHD 2).
The deployment decision comes just days after the UK Government announced that the Royal Navy’s Daring-class Type 45 destroyer, the HMS Defender, is set to provide air defence cover support for French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
The US and coalition nation have stepped up efforts to combat ISIL in Iraq and Syria following the recent Paris attacks, which killed more than 129 people and injured more than 350.
Image: An AV-8B Harrier launches from USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) to conduct their first missions over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Photo: courtesy of the US Navy.