The United Arab Emirates is sending a squadron of F16 jet fighters to Jordan to conduct air strikes against ISIL alongside Jordanian planes, an army source in Amman said.
Jordan launched bombing raids against the jihadist group’s positions in Syria and Iraq on Thursday in response to its brutal killing of a captured Jordanian pilot, military action that it continued on Saturday.
The UAE, meanwhile, has suspended flights as part of the U.S.-led coalition conducting air strikes against ISIL in view of concerns about search and rescue capabilities after the pilot was downed.
UAE fighters would now join raids from inside Jordan, the source said.
“This is a big boost and will be helping our (Gulf) brothers shorten their flying distances and intensify strikes against the militants,” the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
UAE state news agency WAM said the Gulf country had ordered a squadron of F16s to support the Jordanian armed forces in what it said was it’s “effective participation” in the military campaign against IS.
But it did not specify whether the aircraft would be carrying out air strikes from Jordan.
A U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the UAE would resume missions in the coalition air campaign in the next few days. The official did not provide further details.
The U.S. military declined comment, referring queries to the UAE.
Jordan’s King Abdullah has vowed to avenge pilot Mouath al-Kasaesbeh’s killing and ordered his commanders to prepare for a stepped-up military role in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL.
Many Jordanians fear being dragged into a conflict that could trigger a backlash by hardline militants inside the Kingdom.
Jordanian military experts say the ability of the Kingdom to sustain its air strikes would soon come under strain given the 40 mid-life F16 jets the air force has at its disposal.
Jordan’s monarch has been lobbying Washington, the Kingdom’s main backer to provide it with more spare parts, night vision equipment and other weapons to help it expand its operations.
Jordan carried out air strikes for the third day running on Saturday, mainly targeting the jihadist group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, a security source said.
Two security sources close to the military speaking on condition of anonymity said the Kingdom had conducted at least 60 raids over the past three days, mainly on targets in ISIL-controlled territory in Syria but also in Iraq.