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Update: air strikes in Iraq

21 July 2015

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

Latest update

ISIL terrorists have suffered further losses from highly accurate air strikes delivered by Royal Air Force aircraft operating in support of Iraqi ground forces.

RAF Tornado GR4 and Reaper aircraft have continued to fly daily armed reconnaissance missions over Iraq to gather intelligence and, when appropriate, strike positively identified targets.

On Thursday 9 July, a Reaper observed ISIL terrorists converting an armoured pick-up truck – most likely for use as a car-bomb. Despite the target being parked in a roofed bay, the Reaper's crew was able to score a direct hit with a Hellfire missile which destroyed the vehicle. Later, they kept close watch on a group of terrorists loading a pick-up truck with ammunition and the Reaper conducted an attack with a Hellfire. The resulting explosion destroyed the ammunition truck and another ISIL vehicle close by.

On Friday 10 July, Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri, supported by a Voyager tanker, patrolled near Habbaniyah in western Iraq to support Iraqi army units operating in the area. A coalition surveillance aircraft identified an ISIL mortar position which had opened fire on the Iraqi troops, and was able to guide a successful attack by the GR4s using a Brimstone missile. Later that night, another GR4 patrol headed to northern Iraq to support Kurdish peshmerga. UK aircraft were directed to attack a building to which a group of terrorists had retreated after an engagement with the peshmerga; a Paveway IV bomb demolished the target. Another Kurdish unit then reported coming under heavy machine-gun fire; the GR4s conducted a successful Paveway attack which destroyed the building from which the terrorist machine-gun team was firing.

A further GR4 mission in northern Iraq, on Sunday 12 July, also provided assistance to the peshmerga when they again encountered an ISIL machine-gun position. Although the Kurdish forces were in close proximity to the target, careful planning and coordination by the RAF crews allowed a precision attack to be delivered with a Paveway IV which eliminated the threat to the peshmerga.

Tuesday 14 July saw GR4s flying close air support for Iraqi soldiers engaged in close combat with a group of ISIL extremists near Fallujah. A terrorist mortar position was identified hidden in a line of trees and, despite the friendly ground forces being close to the target, our aircraft were able to conduct a successful attack with a Paveway guided bomb without risk to the Iraqi troops.

On Thursday 16 July, two GR4s provided close air support to the peshmerga in northern Iraq near Mosul and used a Paveway to destroy another mortar position which had previously fired on the Kurdish troops. The GR4s then flew west to Tal Afar, where an ISIL vehicle armed with a heavy machine-gun concealed under a building was successfully destroyed by a Paveway.

GR4s again patrolled near Tal Afar on Sunday 19 July, during which an ISIL mortar team opened fire on peshmerga positions. The mortar was located and attacked with a Paveway IV.

The following day, an RAF Reaper flew overwatch for security forces in western Iraq, and was able to track a pick-up truck carrying a group of terrorists. The vehicle was destroyed by a hit from a Hellfire missile.

A major part of the coalition's strategic surveillance capability is provided by RAF Sentinel and Rivet Joint aircraft, while RAF Sentry airborne command platforms help ensure the effective coordination of the many different air forces contributing to the campaign against ISIL.

On the ground, British military instructors continue to work with coalition partners to provide intensive training for the Iraqi security forces as they build their strength to drive the terrorists out of their country; since the start of the coalition air campaign last autumn, the Iraqi and Kurdish troops have already succeeded in liberating some 25-30% of the territory initially seized by the ISIL extremists.

Previous air strikes

The coalition's programme to help train and equip the Iraqi security forces continues, with British military instructors making a significant contribution in assisting the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq. 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.

Other UK personnel are deployed as liaison and staff officers at the key Iraqi and coalition headquarters. All are well supported by RAF Hercules transports, while Sentry command and control aircraft help ensure the effective coordination of coalition air efforts. Also of particular importance to the coalition is the contribution of RAF Rivet Joint and Sentinel surveillance aircraft, which play a vital role in the collection of intelligence about the terrorists' operations.

6 July: A Reaper tracked an ISIL armoured personnel carrier which was used in combat against Iraqi troops. Although the terrorists attempted to conceal their vehicle in a palm grove, this proved no defence against the Reaper, armed with Hellfire missiles. The Reaper subsequently destroyed an armoured pick-up truck, which had been converted to a large car bomb and positioned to hamper Iraqi movements.

5 July: Tornado GR4s operating in northern Iraq provided support to advancing Kurdish peshmerga when they encountered a series of terrorist heavy machine-gun positions. Two were struck by Brimstone missiles and the third with a Paveway IV.

2 July: A Reaper destroyed an engineering vehicle in western Iraq, and a GR4 patrol continued to support the Iraqi forces near Fallujah, using Paveways to attack a network of fighting positions ahead of an Iraqi advance.

1 July: A Reaper patrolled western Iraq in support of the Iraqi army units operating in the area. Another coalition air patrol had identified an engineering vehicle which the ISIL terrorists had been using to construct defensive positions, and the Reaper was able to conduct a successful attack on the vehicle with a Hellfire missile. Later that day, Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri, assisted by a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker, provided close air support to the Iraqi army south-east of Fallujah. A coalition surveillance platform located an ISIL mortar team, allowing the GR4s to carry out a successful attack with a Brimstone missile. The GR4s also then dropped Paveway IV guided bombs on a tunnel network in the same area.

29 June: 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.

28 June: Iraqi soldiers fighting ISIL in the area of Bayji also received air support from RAF. 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.

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.

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.

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.

12 June: 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 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.

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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