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Update: air strikes in Iraq and Syria

11 December 2015

British forces have continued to conduct air operations in the fight against Daesh

Latest update

Daesh terrorists have suffered further losses, as Royal Air Force aircraft have continued operations over Syria and Iraq.

RAF Tornado GR4s, Typhoon FGR4s and Reaper remotely piloted aircraft have flown daily armed reconnaissance missions over both Syria and Iraq, collecting valuable intelligence on terrorist activity. In the course of these patrols, a number of targets have been successfully attacked by our aircraft.

On Wednesday 9 December, a pair of Tornados provided close air support to Kurdish soldiers fighting Daesh in northern Iraq, and used a Paveway IV guided bomb to destroy a terrorist position, including a mortar team, centred on a building near Kisik. A Reaper maintained overwatch for the Kurds into the night, and having assisted other coalition aircraft in a successful strike on a heavy machine-gun position, its crew conducted successful Hellfire missile attacks of their own against three Daesh vehicles south of Sinjar, despite the trucks being parked under cover.

On Thursday 10 December, two Typhoons, working in close cooperation with another coalition aircraft, carried out Paveway IV bomb attacks on a terrorist-held building and a bunker in northern Iraq. A Tornado patrol was meanwhile operating in conjunction with a Reaper south-west of Sinjar; the Tornados destroyed another Daesh building and a mortar position with Paveways, whilst the Reaper followed up with a successful Hellfire attack on a terrorist location. The Reaper stayed on patrol to support the Kurdish forces, and when they came under fire from a sniper, eliminated the threat with a direct hit from a GBU-12 guided bomb. Before returning to base, the Reaper destroyed a Daesh vehicle with a Hellfire.

As ever, the Tornado and Typhoon missions were supported by RAF Voyager air refuelling tankers, with Sentinel and Airseeker aircraft conducting strategic surveillance operations against Daesh. On the ground, the coalition training programme for the Iraqi security forces continues apace, with British military instructors providing both infantry training for Kurdish units in northern Iraq, and leading the country-wide effort to help the Iraqi troops develop techniques to deal with the pernicious threat from improvised explosive devices. This training, coupled with the 1,000 Vallon mine detectors given by the UK to the Iraqi forces, has already saved many lives.

Previous air strikes

2 December: Following the vote in the House of Commons last night, Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 aircraft flew their first offensive operation against Daesh terrorist targets inside Syria. The mainstay of Daesh's financial income is derived from exploitation of a number of oilfields that they hold. These are overwhelmingly located in Daesh's heartlands in eastern Syria. Several of these oilfields have already been effectively targeted by other coalition partners; RAF aircraft and precision weaponry are well suited to attacking, with low collateral risk, this type of target. Overnight, RAF Tornado GR4s, supported by a Voyager air refuelling tanker and a Reaper, and operating in conjunction with other coalition aircraft, employed Paveway IV guided bombs to conduct strikes against six targets within the extensive oilfield at Omar, 35 miles inside Syria's eastern border with Iraq. The Omar oilfield is one of the largest and most important to Daesh's financial operations, and represents over 10% of their potential income from oil. Carefully selected elements of the oilfield infrastructure were targeted, ensuring the strikes will have a significant impact on Daesh's ability to extract the oil to fund their terrorism.

Coalition air operations have already degraded Daesh's front-line military capabilities and have assisted the Iraqi ground forces in liberating some 30% of the territory that the terrorists initially seized in that country during the summer of 2014. By extending RAF offensive operations into Syria, our aircraft are now able to help dismantle the means by which Daesh plan, direct and sustain their campaign of terror.

Before our aircrew conducted their attacks, as is normal they used the aircraft's advanced sensors to confirm that no civilians were in the proximity of the targets, who might be placed at risk. Our initial analysis of the operation indicates that the strikes were successful.

3/4 December: Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri conducted missions over Syria and Iraq. Two GR4s flew an armed reconnaissance patrol over eastern Syria, gathering intelligence on terrorist activity. A second pair of GR4s patrolled over western Iraq, where they provided close air support to Iraqi forces engaged in combat with Daesh in and around Ramadi. A terrorist sniper team opened fire from a compound on Iraqi troops, but was silenced by a direct hit from a Paveway IV guided bomb.

The RAF Tornado and Reaper aircraft that have been conducting air strikes against Daesh have now been reinforced by a detachment of Typhoon fighters, which carry the same Paveway IV precision guided bombs as the Tornados. The deployment of the Typhoons plus an extra two Tornados offers a significant increase in strike capacity to both the RAF component and the wider coalition air campaign.

4 December: Tornado GR4s and Typhoon FGR4s, based at RAF Akrotiri, conducted a further series of strikes on targets in the very large Daesh-controlled oilfield at Omar in eastern Syria. As with the attacks on 3 December which immediately followed the Parliamentary decision to extend offensive air operations to Syrian airspace, the Tornados and Typhoons used Paveway IV guided bombs to hit wellheads, thus cutting off the terrorists' oil revenue at the very source. Eight attacks were carried out, and early reports suggest that they were successful. Our aircraft then remained on patrol to collect intelligence on possible terrorist positions and be ready to strike any further targets that might be identified in eastern Syria or western Iraq.

The Typhoons and the Tornados received vital support from an RAF Voyager air refuelling tanker during their missions. At the same time, an RAF Reaper provided close air support to Kurdish security forces in north-west Iraq as they continue to drive back Daesh after defeating the terrorists at Sinjar. A Daesh truck-bomb was identified south of Sinjar, and the Reaper's crew were able to destroy it by means of a direct hit from a Hellfire missile.

6 December: RAF Tornado GR4s carried out a further UK mission against additional wellheads in the extensive and sprawling Omar oil field. They joined other coalition aircraft in a carefully coordinated strike against the oil infrastructure upon which Daesh relies for much of their revenue to fund their barbaric activities. The GR4s conducted successful attacks using Paveway IV guided bombs. The Tornados then joined Typhoon FGR4s, also flying from RAF Akrotiri, in conducting armed reconnaissance to investigate possible further terrorist targets.

7 December: A pair of Tornado GR4s provided close air support to offensive operations by Iraqi forces in western Ramadi. A Daesh mortar position was identified and successfully engaged with a Brimstone missile. Over northern Iraq, a Reaper was meanwhile supporting Kurdish troops, and it used a Hellfire missile to destroy a terrorist vehicle.

8 December: West of Qayyara, Tornados conducted two Brimstone attacks on Daesh terrorists. That evening, a further pair of Tornados assisted Iraqi soldiers north-east of Bayji; the GR4s used Paveway IVs to destroy three Daesh positions which were directing heavy machine-gun and mortar fire at the Iraqis.

Whilst the Tornados, Typhoons and Reapers are able to conduct invaluable tactical reconnaissance, a large percentage of the coalition's strategic surveillance capability is provided by the RAF's Sentinel and Air Seeker aircraft. Hercules transports also play a key role in ensuring the logistic support of the UK forces deployed on Operation Shader, especially the military training teams in Iraq, who are working with other coalition partners to train and equip the Iraqi security forces as they continue to build their strength to defeat Daesh on the ground.

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