Update: air strikes in Iraq
11 March 2015
British forces have continued to conduct air operations to assist the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIL.
Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft have again struck a series of ISIL terrorist targets in Iraq.
RAF Tornado and Reaper aircraft have continued to fly missions over Iraq as part of the international coalition's campaign to support the Iraqi government in their fight against ISIL. On Wednesday 4 March, a Reaper, which was providing air support to Iraqi army units, spotted the muzzle flash of a heavy calibre weapon. Close investigation allowed the Reaper's crew to locate an ISIL towed artillery piece, which was then destroyed with a Hellfire missile. Investigation allowed the Reaper's crew to locate an ISIL towed artillery piece which was destroyed with a Hellfire missile.
The following day, other Reapers continued to provide close air support to Iraqi ground forces in the west of the country. An ISIL vehicle was destroyed during Thursday morning, and then in the evening a series of Hellfire engagements took place. An ISIL vehicle check-point was neutralised, an attempt by terrorists to launch an attack on Iraqi troops was disrupted by three successful missile strikes, and finally an armed pick-up truck was destroyed late that night. The Reapers also provided surveillance support to two further air strikes by coalition fast jets.
On Sunday 8 March, a Reaper armed reconnaissance patrol provided surveillance for a coalition attack on an armed terrorist truck, then conducted an Hellfire attack on a second vehicle. Monday afternoon saw a pair of Tornado GR4s conduct close air support for Kudish peshmerga on the offensive south of Kirkuk. When the peshmerga came under fire from ISIL terrorists the GR4s were able to conduct successful strikes with Paveway IV guided bombs. In the early hours of Wednesday 11 March, a Tornado patrol located a camouflaged 130mm heavy artillery piece near Al Qaim in western Iraq, and destroyed it with Brimstone missiles.
An RAF Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker continues to provide essential support both to our Tornados and other coalition aircraft, and RAF Sentry aircraft make a significant contribution to the coalition's surveillance effort. In northern Iraq, the British military team has completed delivering a programme of infantry training for the Kurdish peshmerga, and is now refocusing on training assistance to help the Iraqi ground forces deal with the threat from improvised explosive devices, on which ISIL are increasingly reliant when they are forced to retreat.
Previous air strikes
1 March: A Reaper tracked an ISIL truck loaded with weapons and ammunition, and scored a direct Hellfire hit.
In the north of Iraq, meanwhile, British and coalition military instructors continue to provide infantry training for the peshmerga as they prepare for further offensives to extend the areas they have already liberated from terrorist control. HMS Dauntless and HMS Kent remain in the Gulf, supporting air strike operations by US and French aircraft carriers.
2 March: A pair of RAF Tornado GR4s led other coalition aircraft in an attack on a series of ISIL fortified positions south of Kirkuk. These bunkers posed a potential threat to offensive operations by the Kurdish peshmerga, who have also benefitted from equipment and extensive training provided by British and coalition military instructors.
Meanwhile, in western Iraq, RAF Reapers provided close air support to an Iraqi Army offensive in Anbar province. The retreating ISIL terrorists sought to hold up the Iraqi advance with numerous improvised explosive devices. One vehicle-borne bomb posed a particular obstacle to the Iraqi ground forces, so a Reaper destroyed the vehicle with a Hellfire missile. Later that night, another Reaper assisted Iraqi troops who had come under fire from the terrorists, carrying out an attack with a Hellfire missile on the ISIL position.
Military support is just one part of the UK government's contribution to the global coalition strategy to defeat ISIL – we are also taking action to counter the terrorist network's finances, are restricting the flow of foreign fighters and have provided vital humanitarian relief to help those affected by ISIL's brutality. The RAF contribution includes Reaper remotely piloted aircraft, which, like the Tornados, provide reconnaissance and close air support to the Iraqi ground forces; a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker; a Sentry airborne surveillance and command aircraft; and air transport aircraft as necessary.
British military training teams continue to teach infantry and first aid skills to the Kurdish peshmerga, and liaison teams are embedded within Iraqi and coalition headquarters. Having previously provided military equipment to the Iraqi forces, Britain plans to gift improvised explosive device (IED) detectors to help the Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers protect themselves against the numerous improvised explosive devices on which ISIL are increasingly relying as they are forced back by successful offensives. In the Gulf, the Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyer HMS Dauntless is operating in direct support of the US Navy's aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, which provides a significant part of the coalition's air effort.
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