Update: air strikes in Iraq
1 May 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 conducted a series of air strikes to support Iraqi government operations against ISIL terrorists, including participation in a major coalition attack against targets in northern Iraq.
Since the international coalition responded last autumn to requests for assistance, Iraqi ground forces have made a number of successful advances against the ISIL terrorist network. The Kurdish peshmerga, trained and equipped by the international coalition and British military instructors, and well supported from the air, have liberated significant swathes of territory from ISIL control, including key towns such as Rabiyah and Zumar. They have also rescued Yazidi refugees who were besieged on Mount Sinjar.
Recent peshmerga operations have focused on expanding government control to the west of Kirkuk. Following extensive reconnaissance and planning, coalition aircraft, including RAF Tornado GR4s armed with Paveway IV precision guided bombs, conducted a series of coordinated air strikes on carefully selected targets. On the evening of Monday 27 April, the RAF aircraft struck seven targets, including headquarters and weapon storage buildings. Later that night, a second RAF Tornado patrol provided further support to the Kurdish forces and destroyed a terrorist position with a Paveway.
On Tuesday 28 April, a Reaper remotely piloted aircraft flew overwatch for Iraqi troops in Anbar province, in western Iraq. Using the aircraft's advanced surveillance equipment, the crew identified a terrorist team burying an explosive booby-trap; a Hellfire missile from the Reaper scored a direct hit. The Reaper then tracked the movement of an ISIL heavy machine-gun team to an ISIL compound, allowing a successful air strike to be conducted by a coalition fast jet. Another Reaper took over the support mission in the same area the following day, and assisted the Iraqi troops by destroying an anti-tank gun.
RAF Sentry command and control aircraft, Sentinel surveillance aircraft, and Voyager air-to-air refuelling tankers are also making a major contribution to the coalition air campaign, with Hercules transports providing logistic support to the British military training and liaison teams in Iraq.
Previous air strikes
2 April: Two Tornado GR4s flew an armed reconnaissance patrol. As well as conducting surveillance with the advanced Raptor pod fitted to the aircraft, the GR4s were able to provide support to Kurdish peshmerga near Sinjar, whose advance had brought them into contact with an ISIL heavy machine-gun position in a building. Working in coordination with the ground forces, the GR4s were able to demolish the position with a pair of Paveway IV precision guided bombs.
3/4 April: A further Tornado patrol conducted an intensive series of successful strikes to help disrupt an attempted ISIL attack south-east of Mosul. The first target was a vehicle which was hit by a Brimstone missile. Two more Brimstones and four Paveway IVs were used against an armed pick-up truck and five terrorist positions.
10 April: Two Tornado GR4s conducted an armed reconnaissance patrol over Mosul and destroyed an ISIL vehicle with a Paveway IV precision guided bomb.
11 April: Another GR4 mission provided support for Iraqi troops in Anbar province and identified a factory being used by ISIL to manufacture vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. The GR4s conducted attacks on four targets within the factory, again using Paveway IVs.
13 April: GR4s once again provide close air support for Iraqi ground forces, on this occasion in and around Bayji. Patrolling ahead of the Iraqi troops, RAF aircraft successfully attacked four buildings within an ISIL military compound with Paveway IVs. Later, an armed reconnaissance patrol of Tornado GR4s provided air support to an Iraqi military operation, clearing terrorists from positions to the north of Ramadi. Another coalition aircraft successfully pinpointed a building from which terrorists were firing on the advancing Iraqi troops, and the RAF aircraft conducted a successful attack with a Paveway IV precision guided bomb.
14 April: GR4s provided further support to the same Iraqi operation the following day, during which they engaged an ISIL armoured vehicle with a Brimstone missile.
15 April: RAF Reaper remotely piloted aircraft have also been providing close air support to Iraqi troops in Anbar province, and on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning a Reaper twice struck terrorist positions with Hellfire missiles. Later, a Tornado GR4 patrol armed with Paveway IVs assisted Iraqi troops near Bayji by successfully identifying and attacking a sheltered ISIL mortar position. The GR4s then conducted a further successful strike on a building from which terrorists were firing on the Iraqi troops. Later that day, an RAF Reaper, supporting Iraqi units in Anbar province, was called upon by another coalition aircraft to attack an ISIL vehicle which was tearing up a roadway in an attempt to block the Iraqi advance; a Hellfire missile destroyed the vehicle.
16 April: Another Reaper provided similar overwatch in the area and used its Hellfires to attack an ISIL position and an armed vehicle. The following day, a Reaper strike removed the threat posed by a large vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED).
19 April: Further attacks were conducted by a Reaper in western Iraq, terrorists were spotted attempting to position an IED, but were hit by a Hellfire missile which detonated the bomb. The same aircraft then engaged an ISIL vehicle carrying heavy weaponry.
20 April: In the early hours of the morning, a Reaper operating ahead of an Iraqi advance in Anbar province identified an ambush prepared by ISIL. These were hit by Hellfire missiles. Later in the morning a Reaper identified a bulldozer used by ISIL terrorists to construct a roadblock ahead of an Iraqi army advance, and destroyed it with a Hellfire missile.
21 April: Another Reaper spotted terrorists manning a check-point, intended to stop free movement by the civilian population; a successful Hellfire attack was conducted on the position.
22 April: A Reaper provided surveillance support to two successful coalition fast jet attacks on ISIL positions, then, in the early hours of Thursday morning, carried out its own attack with a Hellfire missile on a terrorist team caught positioning an improvised explosive device (IED).
24/25 April: Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri, supported by a Voyager tanker aircraft, have also continued to fly combat missions. Overnight on Friday and Saturday, a GR4 patrol provided close air support to an Iraqi unit near Ramadi, where government forces have enjoyed a number of recent successes in driving out the terrorists. The Iraqi troops reported coming under fire from snipers located in a building; despite the close proximity of the Iraqi troops, the GR4s were able to mount a precise attack with a Paveway IV guided bomb that destroyed the enemy position without risk to the friendly forces. Shortly afterwards, more terrorists were identified regrouping in a neighbouring building, and this too was hit by a Paveway bomb.
Other RAF aircraft flying on operations, as part of the coalition air campaign to support the Iraqi government, include: Sentry command and control aircraft; Sentinel surveillance platforms; Hercules air transports; and, in the air-to-air refuelling role so important in sustaining lengthy air patrols, a Voyager tanker.
British staff and liaison teams are embedded throughout Iraqi and coalition headquarters to help coordinate support in an effective manner, while military instructors continue to work with coalition partners in delivering training to the Iraqi and Kurdish forces; British trainers have played a prominent role to date in assisting the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq, and the UK is taking the lead in designing a country-wide programme for the coalition to provide training and equipment to help reduce the threat from the improvised explosive devices (IED) which are increasingly favoured by the terrorists as they are forced onto the defensive.
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