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Update: air strikes in Iraq

14 August 2015

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

Latest update

ISIL terrorists in Iraq have again suffered losses from highly accurate air strikes by Royal Air Force and other coalition aircraft.

On Sunday 9 August, an RAF Reaper remotely piloted aircraft provided close air support to Iraqi army units conducting operations against ISIL terrorists in western Iraq. A large trailer was identified, concealed under trees, being loaded with bags of explosives. The Reaper’s crew destroyed the trailer and the explosives with a pair of Hellfire missiles. A second vehicle carrying explosives was then investigated in the same area and, despite again being concealed under trees, a direct hit from a Hellfire destroyed the truck and its deadly load.

Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, two Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri, supported by a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker, were similarly denying the terrorists large quantities of explosives; another coalition aircraft had identified large stockpiles being held by ISIL in two storage buildings at a site from which the civilians had been driven out. Two Paveway bombs were used to strike the buildings, with the stockpiled explosives completely destroyed.

Monday 10 August saw a Reaper operating in support of the Kurdish peshmerga; it conducted four successful Hellfire attacks during its patrol, destroying an enemy vehicle and three terrorist positions. Tornado GR4s were also active, conducting simultaneous attacks with Brimstone missiles on an ISIL excavator and truck which were caught in the process of constructing fortified positions near Khorsabad.

The following day, GR4s used a Paveway guided bomb to hit yet another large stockpile of explosives, which it appeared were being prepared for use as improvised explosive devices.

On Wednesday 12 August, an RAF Reaper delivered successful Hellfire attacks on a Da’ish position and a truck.

Coalition aircraft, including two RAF GR4s, staged a large coordinated air strike on Thursday 13 August against a terrorist strongpoint in northern Iraq, to the east of Tal Afar. This was at a village, the population of which had forced out by ISIL, with the buildings turned into fortified positions in the front line against the advancing Kurdish peshmerga. Very careful surveillance by both the Kurdish troops and aerial reconnaissance allowed a number of key elements of the strong point to be identified, including headquarters, terrorist accommodation, equipment stores and heavy weapon positions. This patient and thorough intelligence analysis allowed a coordinated attack to be mounted by coalition jets against multiple targets, with the GR4s dropping Paveway IV guided bombs. A second flight of GR4s then provided close air support through the evening to the peshmerga, in the course of which a successful strike was conducted on a terrorist mortar position.

On the ground, British military instructors continue to play a significant role within the coalition’s efforts to train and equip the Iraqi security forces, with our personnel providing training in both infantry skills and the techniques needed to deal with the threat from improvised explosive devices. As the Iraqi and Kurdish forces push back the terrorists, ISIL relies heavily on these booby-traps to attempt to delay the advancing troops; this training, along with Vallon mine detectors provided by the UK, have already saved many Iraqi lives.

Previous air strikes

The Kurdish peshmerga, trained and equipped by the international coalition, including by a British Army training team, and well supported from the air, have liberated significant swathes of territory in northern Iraq from ISIL control, including key towns such as Rabiyah and Zumar, and rescued the Yazidi and other Kurdish refugees who were besieged by the terrorists a year ago on Mount Sinjar. A recent offensive, which RAF and other coalition aircraft supported, succeeded in driving back the terrorists to the west of Kirkuk.

4 August: Following these peshmerga successes, the ISIL terrorists had fallen back to the south-eastern foothills of Mount Sinjar, where they had taken over numerous buildings for use as headquarters, barracks, ammunition and equipment depots, all supporting a network of fortified positions several kilometres in length. Extensive surveillance by both the Kurdish troops on Mount Sinjar and from coalition aircraft confirmed that there was no residual civilian presence at these sites, and allowed some forty terrorist targets to be positively identified. This intelligence work allowed the coalition to mount a large, carefully planned air attack on this array of targets, coordinated with a barrage of mortar and heavy weapon fire from the Kurdish positions on the mountain. Two RAF Tornado GR4s, supported by a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker, used Paveway IV precision guided bombs to strike six of the fortified ISIL targets. Initial analysis indicates that the attack was a success.

5 August: An RAF Reaper meanwhile provided close air support to Iraqi army offensive operations in Anbar province. A group of armed terrorists were spotted getting into a vehicle, which was then tracked by the Reaper’s crew – despite the speed of the target, it was successfully hit by a Hellfire missile. Two GR4s also supported Iraqi units near Bayji, and successfully destroyed a vehicle and terrorist group attempting to hide under pipework at a disused industrial site with a Paveway IV.

6 August: Our aircraft once more provided close air support to the peshmerga, this time to the east of Mosul, and Tornado GR4s used a Brimstone missile to destroy a pick-up truck used by a terrorist rocket team.

2 August: Another Reaper destroyed a further truck in the same area, and provided surveillance support for a successful coalition air strike on an armed pick-up truck.

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