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Military

Update: air strikes in Iraq

16 March 2015

British forces have continued to conduct air operations to assist the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIL.

Latest update

Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft have again struck a series of ISIL terrorist targets in Iraq.

On Wednesday 11 March, Tornado GR4s, along with Sentry surveillance and Voyager tanker aircraft, provided close air support to Kurdish peshmerga engaged in eliminating ISIL strongholds in and around the city of Sinjar. An ISIL position was identified – they were using a building to fire at close range on the advancing Kurdish unit. Working closely with the Kurdish forces the Tornado crews conducted a precision attack with a Paveway IV guided bomb which successfully destroyed the position. A little later, a second stronghold was identified – a base being used by a terrorist heavy machine-gun team – this too was successfully attacked with a Paveway IV.

Later that same day, an RAF Reaper provided similar support to Iraqi military units in Anbar province. The Reaper's crew tracked ISIL vehicles moving at speed on the open road and destroyed two with Hellfire missiles. The Reaper then worked closely to designate targets and provide surveillance support for a further five strikes by other coalition aircraft on enemy positions in the area.

Friday 13 March saw Tornado GR4s patrolling ahead of the latest peshmerga offensive near Kirkuk. An armed ISIL truck, which had been firing on the Kurds was destroyed with a Brimstone missile. The GR4s then used Paveways in successful attacks on two buildings in which terrorists had taken up position.

The following day, Tornadoes flew in support of the Iraqi army to the north-west of Haditha. An ISIL armoured personnel carrier and another armed terrorist vehicle were identified, and both were struck by Brimstone missiles.

On Sunday 15 March, a GR4 patrol was back in northern Iraq, operating over Mosul. Knowing that the Iraqi forces plan at some point to launch an offensive to retake the city from the terrorists, ISIL have been making efforts to construct defences in and around Mosul, and the GR4s were able to disrupt some of this engineering work with Paveway and Brimstone strikes. In a similar fashion, a further Tornado mission in the early hours of Monday morning conducted a Brimstone attack on a vehicle being used to create defences at Anah, near the Haditha Lake.

Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, good progress is being made by a British team of military instructors to establish a training programme to help the peshmerga with techniques to meet the threat from improvised explosive devices. These are increasingly being relied upon by ISIL as they are driven back by Iraqi forces, left as booby-traps to delay the troops advance and make it difficult for civilians to resume their normal lives. The Iraqi and Kurdish forces have already dealt with hundreds of such devices, but spreading the necessary expertise across their many units is a high priority to help save lives.

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.

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.

5 March: 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.

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.

9 March: The 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.

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 (IED), on which ISIL are increasingly reliant when they are forced to retreat.



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