New Zealand has been granted the ability to launch air strikes from the sky against suspected Islamic State terrorists as part of a massive military exercise.
The move, which is likely to be controversial given the country’s long-standing pacifist stance, will allow the New Zealand Air Force to carry out a range of air strikes against the group.
The Ministry of Defence has been monitoring the skies and has ordered air strikes, in particular against IS, to be carried out on a “regular basis”.
The Defence Force is also expected to take a closer look at the possibility of air attacks on civilians, according to The Sunday Times.
The exercise is part of the countrys “Global Hawk” programme, a plan to increase the number of jets flying over the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
In a statement, New Zealand Defence Force spokesman Lieutenant General Paul Williams said the exercise, which will involve air and ground crews, would be carried “out in a manner consistent with the country s current security needs”.
The exercise will be conducted at Auckland’s Christchurch airport, in what is known as a “low-level air exercise”.
New Zealand Defence Forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Williams says the exercise will involve Air Force personnel flying in the skies above Auckland.
He says the Air Force will conduct the exercise on a regular basis.
New Zealand has already used air strikes in the past to attack IS targets in Iraq and Syria.
The air strikes have been used in an effort to target the group in Iraq, where it is also battling to recapture Mosul from the extremist group.
The country has also carried out a number of air operations in recent months against IS targets on the ground in Iraq.
In June, the government announced it was “very concerned” by the threat posed by the group, and that New Zealand was “looking at ways to strengthen our response”.
New Zealand, which has a population of more than 2.3 million, has been a staunch ally of the United States in the fight against IS.
The countrys defence minister, Paula Bennett, told Parliament that New Zealands “strong response” was a key part of New Zealand’s defence and security posture.
“There’s a strong and very clear message we’ve got from our alliance with the United Kingdom, and we’re looking at ways we can strengthen our own response.”
Newzealand, which borders Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, has faced a number, of IS attacks in recent years.
In December, the New Zeals army killed two suspected Islamic extremists after they attacked soldiers at a military base in the country, killing two soldiers and injuring a number others.
It is unclear if New Zealand will be involved in the new air strike.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was re-elected in October, has said that New Zealands military would be involved.
New Zealands defence and foreign affairs spokesperson, Simon Bridges, has also indicated that Newzealans military would participate in the exercise.
More to come.