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Update: air strikes in Iraq and Syria

15 December 2015

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

Latest update

The UK continues to hit Daesh hard as Royal Air Force fly intensive armed reconnaissance missions in Syria and Iraq, striking a number of terrorist targets.

While RAF Tornado, Typhoon and Reaper patrols have covered large swathes of Daesh-held territory in both Iraq and Syria, a particular focus for their recent air strikes has been in northern Iraq, where the Kurdish security forces continue to consolidate their significant victory over the terrorists at Sinjar in November. On Friday 11 December, two Typhoon FGR4s from RAF Akrotiri provided close air support to Kurdish peshmerga operating near Mosul. Our aircraft used a Paveway IV guided bomb to destroy a heavy machine-gun position that was firing on the peshmerga, then employed two more Paveway IVs against a group of Daesh extremists as they attacked the Kurdish troops.

Further west, south of Sinjar, a Reaper similarly supported Kurdish forces, and its crew conducted a successful attack with a GBU-12 guided bomb on a sniper team which had opened fire from a building. A large secondary explosion resulted from the strike, which indicates that the building probably also contained a large stockpile of ammunition or explosives. The Reaper subsequently delivered a second successful attack, striking a group of terrorists with a Hellfire missile as they set up rocket launchers. That night, Typhoons returned to patrol over the Mosul region, and attacked a Daesh mortar position with a Paveway IV.

Operations in and around both Mosul and Sinjar continued on Sunday 13 December: Typhoons employed a Paveway IV in a successful attack on ten terrorists as they manned a rocket launcher position, whilst Tornado GR4s used Paveways to strike both a mortar firing point and another rocket launcher team.

On Monday 14 December, a Paveway IV attack by Typhoons destroyed a sniper position near Sinjar, while nearby, Tornados silenced a pair of heavy machine-guns that were firing on the Kurdish forces, the Kurds reporting that both weapons hit their targets with great accuracy despite difficult weather conditions.

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.

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.

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.

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