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Fallon praises British armed forces in fight against IS

The Defence Secretary has praised Britain's armed forces for their work in fighting Islamic State (IS) extremists during a visit to Cyprus.

Michael Fallon told the 400 service personnel based at RAF Akrotiri he was "proud" of their role in helping the Iraqi government defend itself against the threat of IS.

"While this fight will take time, the coalition's air strikes are having a direct effect in supporting Iraqi ground operations against IS," Fallon said.

"In the north, areas around Mount Sinjar have been retaken, bringing relief to the local Yazidi population and applying pressure to IS forces in Mosul. In the south, Iraqi forces operations are beginning to push back ISIL."

RAF 'flies daily missions' supporting Iraqi fight against IS

Royal Air Force Tornado and Reaper jets have flown daily armed reconnaissance missions to support the Iraqi government in its fight against Islamic State militants, the Ministry of Defence has said.

"In the most recent UK military engagement, one of our Reapers provided close air support to an Iraqi unit in combat with Isil terrorists in Diyala province on Friday 13 February," a spokeswoman said.

"The Reaper spotted a machine-gun team firing on the Iraqi troops, and conducted a successful attack with a Hellfire missile. A second machine gun then opened fire on the Iraqis, and the Reaper conducted a further strike with another Hellfire" she added.

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Senior British Army officers 'to be cut by a third'

The number of senior figures in the Army is to be cut as part of the latest reforms, according to reports. Credit: PA

The number of senior figures in the Army is to be cut by up to a third, according to The Times.

Plans by the Army's leader General Sir Nick Carter to axe a third of the force's 500 colonels and 200 brigadiers and generals will be put into effect in April, the paper said.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed an Army Command Review will take place as part of the Army 2020 reform plans.

An Army spokeswoman said: "The Army Command Review is the next step in the development of Army 2020. It builds on the delegated model that Defence has implemented as a result of Lord Levene's report on Defence reforms.

"It will ensure that the Army's command structure and its staff are best placed to meet future challenges in an agile, imaginative and effective manner."

It has already been confirmed the number of regular soldiers will be cut to 82,000, with the number of reservists being boosted to 30,000.

Former defence minister: Army could be cut to 60,000

The Government is already planning to cut the army to 82,000 troops by 2020. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials are examining proposals for an army of 60,000 soldiers, former coalition defence minister Sir Nick Harvey has said.

Sir Nick said paper exercises were going on to examine further cuts to troop numbers due to the impending "financial crunch" faced by the MoD.

The Government's existing Army 2020 plans envisage a shrunken regular force of 82,000 with the number of reservists rising to 30,000.

Sir Nick told MPs: "There are already paper exercises going on in looking at what an army of just 60,000 would look like because of the financial crunch that the department is going to be facing."

The Liberal Democrat MP was speaking in the Commons during a debate on Trident renewal.

Army Reserve age limit is raised to 52

The upper age limit for some soldiers to join the Army Reserve has been increased by nine years to 52.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the age limit for individuals with specific qualifications or experience has been raised from 45 to 50, while the maximum age for ex-regular soldiers joining was increased earlier this year from 43 to 52.

The upper age limit for some soldiers to join the Army Reserve has been been increased to 52. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire.

A spokeswoman said the MoD made "no apology" for revising the age requirements, adding, "All recruits have to meet strict fitness requirements, or could face discharge."

The upper age limit for ex-regular soldiers to join was increased in May to "better reflect demographics and health of the population" and widen the recruitment poo.

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MoD: RAF drone joined attacks against militants in Iraq

An unmanned RAF 'Reaper' drone carried out attacks against militants in Iraq. Credit: Ministry of Defence

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed that an unmanned RAF 'Reaper' drone carried out attacks against militants in Iraq for the first time at the weekend.

The MoD said the drone was used during a series of coalition missions conducted near Bayji, north of Baghdad and "successfully attacked the terrorists using a Hellfire missile".

The drone also provided "intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assistance to coalition aircraft which enabled them to conduct further strikes" according to the MoD.

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