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Update: air strikes in Iraq

26 May 2015

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

Latest update

British military forces have provided further extensive air and training support to Iraqi forces fighting ISIL terrorists.

While coalition teams, including British instructors, continue to run training programmes to help the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga build more effective capabilities, Royal Air Force aircraft have continued to play a significant role in the air campaign supporting the Iraqi units fighting on the front line.

On Tuesday 19 May, a Reaper and two Tornado GR4s patrolled northern Iraq, where the peshmerga were conducting offensive operations against ISIL terrorists. The Reaper identified a series of fortified positions; it successfully attacked one bunker with a Hellfire missile, then helped direct three attacks by the Tornado GR4s, which used Paveway IV precision guided bombs to destroy an artillery position and two other bunkers. The Tornados then destroyed a heavy machine-gun position in a building which had open fired on the Kurdish troops with a highly accurate Paveway attack. The Reaper, meanwhile, conducted a further attack of its own, destroying a heavily armed vehicle moving at high speed. The same day also saw another RAF Reaper operating in Anbar province, where it used a Hellfire to destroy a mortar which was firing on Iraqi troops.

On Wednesday 20 May, Tornados struck a weapons store with Paveways and operations in northern Iraq continued the next day with the Tornados destroying an ISIL heavy weapons position in a building. They then attacked a further weapons cache in a tunnel and in the course of this strike, a camouflaged position nearby was spotted by the aircrew, confirmed as hostile, and was also bombed.

In the west of the country, Reapers continued to provide overwatch to the Iraqi forces in Anbar province. On Friday 22 May, a Reaper successfully engaged terrorists burying improvised explosive devices next to a road. The aircraft then supported a strike mounted by coalition fast jets on an ISIL-held building.

Sunday 24 May saw a Reaper in the same area destroy an ISIL armoured vehicle which was in close combat with Iraqi forces with a Hellfire and then provided surveillance support to four successful strikes by coalition aircraft on ISIL buildings and a bulldozer which had been packed with explosives for an attack on the Iraqi troops.

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.

15 May: When ISIL launched their attack on Friday 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.

17 May: 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.

18 May: 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.

19 May: 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 (IED). 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.

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.

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