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Update: air strikes in Iraq

6 May 2015

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

Latest update

Iraqi troops fighting against ISIL terrorists have received further training assistance on the ground and support in the air from the British forces serving with the international coalition.

UK military instructors continue to help increase the capabilities of the Iraqi armed forces as part of a coalition programme. A particular focus for the British effort is coordinating the training of the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga to deal better with improvised explosive devices; as ISIL is forced onto the defensive, the terrorists increasingly rely on these booby-traps in their attempts to slow down advances.

In the air, Royal Air Force Sentry and Sentinel aircraft make a major contribution to the coalition's surveillance capabilities, with Voyager tankers and Hercules transports providing essential logistic support to operations. Both RAF Tornado GR4s and Reapers, which undertake the reconnaissance and strike roles, have been in action against ISIL in recent days.

On Sunday 3 May, two GR4s provided direct support to Iraqi troops near Bayji and conducted a successful attack with a Paveway precision guided bomb on a concealed ISIL position. Shortly afterwards, a Reaper flying overwatch for an Iraqi unit in Anbar province was able to identify two engineering vehicles which ISIL were using to construct defensive positions – both vehicles were destroyed with Hellfire missiles.

Tornado GR4s also assisted Iraqi troops on the evening of Monday 4 May; whilst trying to evacuate wounded comrades, the soldiers came under heavy fire from terrorists positioned in two buildings. Despite the proximity of the friendly forces, careful planning and the accuracy of the Paveway system allowed the GR4s to destroy both terrorist positions and remove the threat to the troops on the ground.

GR4s then provided support to the Kurdish peshmerga on Tuesday 6 May near Mosul, and conducted air strikes with Paveways on ISIL sniper and heavy machine-gun positions.

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.

27 April: 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.

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.

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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