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Update: air strikes in Iraq

Last updated: 28 August 2015

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

Latest update

Iraqi forces fighting the murderous ISIL terrorist network have received further air support from Royal Air Force and other coalition aircraft, as well as continued training and equipment on the ground.

RAF Tornado GR4 and Reaper aircraft continue to fly daily armed reconnaissance missions, using their advanced surveillance capabilities to gather intelligence on ISIL activity in northern and western Iraq, and to strike appropriate targets as they are identified.

On Thursday 20 August, a Tornado patrol located two mechanical excavator vehicles near Mosul, which the ISIL terrorists were using to construct fortified positions to defend against the Kurdish peshmerga’s recent successful offensives in the area. Both of the vehicles were destroyed by our aircraft using Brimstone missiles.

Further south, an RAF Reaper was providing support that day to Iraqi army units; a large truck-bomb was spotted, positioned on the central reservation of a major road to threaten any advance by the Iraqi security forces along that route. A Hellfire missile destroyed the vehicle.

The Reaper’s crew then conducted surveillance against a building suspected of being a bomb-making location, where armed terrorists were seen moving a large number of sacks of home-made explosives, and preparing improvised explosive devices. Successful Hellfire attacks were conducted against the facility and the bomb-makers.

Reapers continued to provide close air support to the Iraqi troops on Friday 21 August, and Hellfires were used to destroy two ISIL fighting positions, including one heavy machine-gun team that had opened fire on the Iraqi forces.

The following day, a Tornado patrol near Ar Rutbah located another pair of engineering vehicles which were being used by the terrorists to construct defences, and these were both destroyed by direct hits from Brimstone missiles.

On Monday 24 August, a Reaper helped a coalition fast jet to successfully target a well-concealed terrorist sniper who was firing on Iraqi security forces, and the next day saw another Reaper conduct three Hellfire attacks on terrorist positions.

The Reapers were particularly active on Wednesday 26 August supporting the Kurdish peshmerga, and conducted a total of five successful strikes on terrorist groups attempting to manoeuvre on foot and in vehicles in the open desert.

On the ground, British military instructors continue to make a significant contribution to the coalition’s programme to help the Iraqi security forces improve their training and equipment. With the terrorists heavily reliant on improvised explosive devices and other booby-traps to slow down Iraqi advances, the counter-IED training and Vallon mine detectors provided by the British teams have already helped save many lives.

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.

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 used its 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.

16 August: Tornado GR4s providing close air support to the Iraqi army near Bayji 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.

18 August: A Reaper 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.

19 August: A Tornado GR4 patrol providing support to the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq used Paveways to destroy first a pair of rocket launchers, then an ISIL supply truck.



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