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Update: air strikes in Iraq

1 July 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) air strikes in Iraq have inflicted further losses on the ISIL terrorist network.

RAF Tornado and Reaper aircraft continue to fly daily armed reconnaissance missions in support of the Iraqi armed forces and in the course of these patrols conducted a number of successful attacks on ISIL in recent days.

Overnight on 23/24 June, Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri, supported by a Voyager tanker aircraft, provided close air support to Kurdish peshmerga fighting the terrorists in northern Iraq. Near Kisik, a Kurdish unit reported that it was engaged in a firefight with a terrorist group, who were directing machine-gun and mortar fire at them from a fortified building. The RAF GR4s struck the building with a direct hit from a Paveway IV guided bomb, and the peshmerga subsequently reported that the ISIL group had been destroyed.

On Friday 26 June, a Reaper on patrol over western Iraq located an engineering vehicle, used by ISIL to construct defences in the area. Despite the efforts to conceal the vehicle, the Reaper was able to destroy the target with a Hellfire missile.

Iraqi soldiers fighting ISIL in the area of Bayji also received air support from the RAF, and on Sunday 28 June, Tornado GR4s, working closely with another coalition surveillance aircraft, were able to track a group of terrorists in a vehicle, and hit them with a Paveway IV bomb.

On Monday, a Reaper tracked another engineering vehicle in western Iraq, which was being used to open up a supply route for the terrorists. Although the ISIL operators attempted to hide their vehicle, the Reaper's crew were able to manoeuvre their aircraft into a good position for an accurate attack which destroyed the bulldozer.

Previous air strikes

The RAF contribution to the coalition air campaign is notable not just for the effectiveness of the GR4 and Reaper in delivering close air support attacks, but also the surveillance capabilities it brings. Both Reaper and Tornado are highly effective reconnaissance platforms, and the RAF is also providing the extremely sophisticated Rivet Joint and Sentinel surveillance aircraft, as well as Sentry airborne command posts which help coordinate the overall coalition air effort. Essential logistic support is provided by Hercules transports and a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker.

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. The training also now includes a Protection of Civilians element to counter the sexual violence used by ISIL as a weapon.

The Kurdish peshmerga have liberated significant swathes of territory in northern Iraq from ISIL control, including key towns such as Rabiyah and Zumar, and rescued the Yazidi refugees who were besieged on Mount Sinjar. A recent offensive, which RAF and other coalition aircraft supported, succeeded in driving back the terrorists to the west of Kirkuk. In this area are a number of villages from which ISIL have driven out the civilian population and the deserted villages have then been transformed into large fortified strongholds and terrorist training camps. Several of these have already been targeted by coalition aircraft and overrun by the peshmerga. A large coordinated operation on Friday 12 June focused on a location behind the current front line, west of Kirkuk and north of Bayji. Extensive reconnaissance allowed a large number of terrorist targets to be identified inside the perimeter of the complex. Careful planning allowed a number of coalition aircraft, including RAF Tornado GR4s which dropped ten Paveway IV precision guided bombs, to conduct a coordinated air strike on these key targets and disrupt ISIL efforts to recover from the successful peshmerga offensives to the north, and Iraqi army operations around Bayji and Tikrit to the south.

21 June: Tornado GR4s, supported by a Voyager tanker, flew from RAF Akrotiri to provide close air support to the Kurdish peshmerga. In a wide-ranging patrol across northern Iraq, the GR4s responded to requests for assistance from the peshmerga, as ISIL terrorist positions were encountered. In the north-west, near Tal Afar, the RAF aircraft conducted a successful attack with a Paveway IV guided bomb on a mortar position that had opened fire on the Kurdish troops. They then destroyed a second mortar team, operating from a building near Kisik, before flying east to the area of Mosul, where a heavy machine-gun position had been located, firing from a building. This was destroyed by another highly accurate Paveway attack. In the west of the country, an RAF Reaper remotely piloted aircraft provided overwatch for Iraqi army operations in Anbar province. In the course of this patrol, the Reaper's crew identified a vehicle in use by the ISIL terrorists and struck it with a Hellfire missile.

17 June: Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri flew to north-western Iraq to provide close air support for peshmerga operations in the area. The GR4s took over from another coalition flight, which had already conducted successful air strikes in the area, and our aircraft used Paveway IV guided bombs to hit three more terrorist positions which had opened fire on the Kurdish forces, including two ISIL heavy machine-gun teams.

16 June: An RAF Reaper remotely piloted aircraft conducted an armed reconnaissance mission over western Iraq. Whilst investigating the suspected location of a hidden ISIL weapons cache, a number of terrorists were identified loading a vehicle with arms and supplies. The Reaper's crew confirmed there were no civilians at risk in the area, and destroyed the vehicle with a Hellfire missile. The Reaper also provided surveillance support to a further attack on a nearby terrorist position by a coalition fast jet.

14 June: A pair of Tornado GR4s conducted a series of three successful attacks with Paveways on a terrorist team armed with rocket-propelled grenades and also two ISIL heavy machine-gun positions, all of which were engaged in combat with the Kurdish forces.

11 June: Two Tornado GR4s provided close air support to advancing peshmerga near Sinjar who had come under fire from an ISIL sniper team located in an isolated building; this was demolished by a direct hit from a Paveway. The GR4s then flew south to assist the Iraqi army near Ar Rutbah, where they used a Brimstone missile to destroy a terrorist armoured personnel carrier.

10 June: An RAF Reaper remotely piloted aircraft patrolling near Iraq's border with Syria destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

7 June: A Reaper tracked an ISIL truck moving at high speed close to the border with Syria and destroyed it with a Hellfire missile. That night, an RAF Tornado GR4 patrol provided support to both the Kurdish peshmerga in north of the country, and to the Iraqi army further south. Near Sinjar, peshmerga came into contact with an ISIL team armed with rocket-propelled grenades, who were fortified inside a building. The Tornados successfully destroyed the building with a Paveway IV guided bomb. The two Tornados then flew south to the area around Bayji, where a group of terrorists had been observed gathering in a large building, preparing an attack on an Iraqi army unit. A strike with two Paveways demolished the building.

5 June: in the early hours of the morning, Tornados provided further support to the Iraqi army in Anbar province, attacking an ISIL weapons cache and a mortar position. Later, a Reaper remotely piloted aircraft provided overwatch to Iraqi troops in Anbar province. Patrolling over a known ISIL compound, the Reaper's operators observed a group of terrorists unloading supplies from a vehicle, and conducted a successful attack with a GBU-12 guided bomb.

4 June: a Tornado mission used Paveway bombs to destroy a building from which terrorists were firing on advancing peshmerga soldiers, and then an ISIL supply warehouse north of Mosul. In western Iraq, a Reaper destroyed a vehicle and trailer transporting ammunition.

3 June: a Tornado patrol in northern Iraq destroyed an ISIL heavy machine-gun position.

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