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Update: air strikes in Iraq

Last updated: 21 August 2015

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

Latest update

Whilst British military instructors continue to play their part in training and equipping the Iraqi troops who are fighting ISIL, the Royal Air Force has conducted further precision attacks on terrorist targets from the air.

Iraqi security forces are very active in western Iraq, where they are conducting successful operations to isolate Ramadi, cutting off ISIL supply routes into the city. RAF aircraft have helped provide support, and on Friday 14 August an RAF Reaper flew overwatch for Iraqi troops, supported by artillery, as they engaged a number of terrorist positions. The Reaper’s crew were able to use the aircraft’s advanced surveillance capabilities to pinpoint a group of terrorists who were firing on the Iraqi forces from a concealed position in a treeline, allowing coalition fast jets to conduct a successful strike with guided bombs. The Reaper then identified a heavy machine-gun team and eliminated the threat with an Hellfire missile. It continued to work closely with the coalition fast jets, assisting them in an attack that destroyed two more terrorist positions, then delivered another Hellfire attack of its own, destroying a truck as the ISIL extremists retreated.

Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri provided close air support to the Iraqi army near Bayji on Sunday 16 August. Having carried out some valuable reconnaissance work, they spotted two ISIL vehicles – a bulldozer and an armoured truck – close to the front line. The vehicles were destroyed by a simultaneous attack with a pair of Paveway IV guided bombs.

On Tuesday 18 August, a Reaper, again operating over western Iraq, used a Hellfire to strike an armed pick-up truck, with a second such vehicle destroyed the following day by another Reaper.

Wednesday 19 August also saw a Tornado GR4 patrol providing support to the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq, where our aircraft used Paveways to destroy first a pair of rocket launchers, then an ISIL supply truck.

The effectiveness of the support given by the RAF and other coalition aircraft to the Iraqi ground forces is facilitated by the network of liaison officers deployed with Iraqi headquarters. Intelligence is a key element in pinning down the terrorists’ positions, and the RAF contribution in this regard is particularly valued: both Tornado and Reaper have excellent reconnaissance capabilities, with much of the coalition’s strategic surveillance provided by our Rivet Joint and Sentinel aircraft. C-130 transport aircraft deliver the necessary logistic support to the British liaison officers and training teams deployed at Iraqi military bases.
Previous air strikes

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.

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.

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.

10 August: 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.

11 August: 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.

12 August: An RAF Reaper delivered successful Hellfire attacks on a Da’ish position and a truck.

13 August: Coalition aircraft, including two RAF GR4s, staged a large coordinated air strike 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.

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