Update: air strikes in Iraq
19 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 successful air strikes on ISIL terrorists in Iraq.
Whilst ISIL have managed to establish positions in the centre of Ramadi, they have suffered significant losses in men and equipment in the process from intensive coalition air activity. When ISIL launched their attack on Friday 15 May on Government buildings in Ramadi, an RAF Reaper was among the coalition aircraft that came to the assistance of the Iraqi security forces, and it was able to destroy a terrorist position with a Hellfire missile. At the same time, Tornado GR4s, based at RAF Akrotiri and supported by a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker, used a Paveway precision guided bomb to demolish an ISIL-held building near Bayji.
On Sunday, GR4s again supported Iraqi army operations in the Bayji area, and safely destroyed with a Brimstone missile a car-bomb which the terrorists had positioned ahead of the advancing Iraqi troops. A Reaper continued to support the Iraqi forces in Anbar province, including providing surveillance assistance to a successful coalition air strike in Ramadi.
Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 May saw Reapers and Tornadoes flying overwatch for Kurdish peshmerga attacking ISIL near Sinjar City in the north of the country. On Monday, a Reaper assisted two coalition air strikes on terrorist positions, including a heavy machine-gun team, then conducted a third strike itself with a Hellfire. On Tuesday morning, a Reaper mounted a further successful attack on a terrorist location, while a Tornado patrol employed Paveway bombs to strike several ISIL positions in the same area, including a heavy-machine gun that had opened fire on the Kurds.
Meanwhile, good progress is being made by a British team of military instructors in leading a training programme to help the Iraqi and Kurdish troops with techniques to meet the threat from improvised explosive devices. These are heavily being relied upon by ISIL, left as booby-traps to delay Iraqi advances and make it difficult for civilians to resume their normal lives. The Iraqi 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
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.
4 May: Tornado GR4s also assisted Iraqi troops on the evening of Monday; 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.
6 May: GR4s provided support to the Kurdish peshmerga near Mosul, and conducted air strikes with Paveways on ISIL sniper and heavy machine-gun positions. An RAF Reaper flew overwatch for advancing Iraqi troops in Anbar province. The Reaper's crew used the aircraft's advanced surveillance systems to identify a heavy machine-gun position, which was successfully attacked with a Hellfire missile. Two further ISIL positions were also struck shortly afterwards.
7 May: Tornado GR4s supported Kurdish forces north of Mosul, with our aircraft destroying another terrorist heavy machine-gun position, which had opened fire on the peshmerga.
13 May: Reapers conducted further successful strikes – successfully attacking a large vehicle. Another Reaper was operating over northern Iraq the same day, and used Hellfires to strike ISIL fighters and an engineering vehicle.
14 May: Tornado GR4s on a reconnaissance mission were tasked to attack a building near Bayjii where coalition surveillance had confirmed terrorists were assembling; a Paveway IV guided bomb scored a direct hit on the target.
Other RAF aircraft contributing to the coalition air campaign include Sentry command and control platforms, Sentinel surveillance aircraft, and Voyager refuelling tankers. Hercules transport aircraft provide logistic support to the British liaison officers working with the Iraqi and coalition headquarters, as well as the military training teams which continue to assist the Iraqi forces build up their capabilities in order to fight the terrorists effectively.
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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