FIGHTER jets from RAF Leuchars have flown to Libya to take part in their first ever combat mission.
Typhoons from the closure-threatened base touched down in Italy at the weekend before heading to North Africa to help patrol the no-fly zone over the crisis-hit country.
Air strikes against Colonel Gaddafi’s military forces have been ongoing since Saturday, although exact details of the Typhoons’ involvement have not been released.
News of the deployment has prompted calls for the UK Government to re-think its plans to close RAF bases — potentially including Leuchars — as part of the defence spending review.
On Monday, local campaigners and politicians travelled to Downing Street to present a 7500-signature petition urging the Government to spare Leuchars as it prepares to make its final decision on which bases to axe.
Among those representing north east Fife in London were MP Sir Menzies Campbell and MSP Iain Smith.
Sir Menzies said: “The presentation of a petition at 10 Downing Street to the Prime Minister is yet another step in the continuing campaign for the retention of RAF Leuchars.
“Ministers continue to assure us that no decision has been taken and there will be no announcement until after the Scottish Parliament election.
“We shall take every opportunity to press the case for Leuchars both strategically and economically.
“We were glad to be joined today by members of the Leuchars task force and the local community.”
The petition was supplemented by more than 20,000 pledges of support on the social networking website Facebook.
Mr Smith said: “This petition shows the overwhelming support there is in the local community for RAF Leuchars to remain.
“Over 30,000 people have given their backing to the campaign to save the base.
“Ministers should be under no illusion about the significant contribution that RAF Leuchars makes to the local economy and to the local community.”
A decision on which RAF bases to close is likely to be made within the next few weeks, with an announcement set for after the Scottish parliamentary elections on May 5.
Rumours have surfaced in recent weeks that Leuchars could be turned into an army base to house troops returning from Germany.
n The Residents Action Force for Leuchars has launched a website for information on the campaign.
The website address is www.saverafleuchars.org