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Update: air strikes in Iraq and Syria

13 January 2016

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

Latest update

Royal Air Force aircraft have joined other coalition jets in a carefully coordinated major strike on a Daesh terrorist headquarters in Mosul.

Iraqi ground forces have made repeated successful advances against the Daesh terrorist network, with recent major successes at Sinjar and Ramadi. Mosul remains the largest Iraqi town held by the terrorists, and they have concentrated much of their command and control functions within the city. Patient intelligence assessment allowed a walled compound in the northern part of Mosul to be identified as a major headquarters of the Daesh security organisation, which is responsible for terrorising the civilian population – and indeed demoralised elements of their own membership – into compliance, and is thus associated with many of the terrorists' worst atrocities inside Syria and Iraq. Very careful planning allowed three key targets within the compound to be identified, and an attack carefully planned to minimise any risks to civilians in Mosul.

On the evening of Tuesday 12 January, whilst other coalition aircraft conducted a series of strikes on a range of other key Daesh targets within Mosul, Typhoon FGR4s from RAF Akrotiri, supported by a Voyager air refuelling tanker, used Paveway IV guided bombs to attack the security headquarters compound, and initial analysis indicates that the attack was a success.

RAF aircraft have also continued very active air operations against Daesh targets inside Syria. On Monday 11 January, a Reaper identified a terrorist check point – one of the methods used by Daesh to attempt to impose their will on the civilian population – and successfully attacked it using a Hellfire missile. The following day, Reapers maintained surveillance over the oilfields in eastern Syria which have been targeted by coalition air strikes, including by the RAF, to deny Daesh the ability to use the oil to finance their operations. The Reapers identified a mechanical excavator which was being used to attempt repairs, and an oil pump which had evidently been brought back on line, and destroyed both with Hellfire missiles. In north-eastern Syria, Tornado GR4s meanwhile patrolled in the area of Al Hasakah, where they used Paveway IVs to strike two Daesh-held strongpoints.

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.

11 December: 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. 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.

13 December: Operations in and around both Mosul and Sinjar continued. 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.

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.

15 December: Two Tornado GR4s patrolled over eastern Syria and northern Iraq and conducted a successful attack with a Paveway IV laser and GPS guided bomb to destroy a terrorist mortar position near Sinjar. Further south, two Typhoon FGR4s supported the Iraqi army in its operations around Ramadi, and struck a Daesh encampment with two Paveway IVs. A second pair of Tornados flew another mission over northern Iraq and destroyed an enemy mortar with a Paveway.

16 December: RAF Tornados assisted the Iraqi troops battling Daesh on the outskirts of Ramadi, and used Paveway IVs to destroy heavy machine-gun positions, a sniper team and a group of terrorist fighters. In northern Iraq, all three RAF aircraft deployed to fight Daesh – Tornados, Typhoons and Reaper – were in action, providing close air support to the Kurdish peshmerga. Our aircraft delivered numerous precision attacks on terrorist targets, to the north and west of Mosul using a mixture of Brimstone, Hellfire, Paveway IV and GBU-12 missiles and bombs. In total, these RAF strikes successfully destroyed four heavy machine-gun positions, two terrorist teams armed with rockets, three Daesh vehicles, one of which was a large truck-bomb, and six groups of terrorists. Additionally, the two Reapers were able to use their advanced reconnaissance sensors to assist twelve successful attacks by other coalition aircraft. Typhoons also conducted tactical reconnaissance and another Tornado mission returned to Ramadi, where they destroyed a heavy machine-gun position and two terrorist-held buildings.

Thursday 17 December: A Tornado patrol south of Sinjar was able to destroy three vehicles with Brimstone missiles and in western Iraq, Typhoons working closely with an Iraqi unit dropped a pair of Paveway Ivs on a string of improvised explosive devices blocking the road. Another Tornado mission in northern Iraq attacked a large group of terrorists preparing to attack a Kurdish position.

18 December: Typhoons and Tornados operated over the Sinjar and Mosul areas, suppressing Daesh mortar positions with two Paveway attacks, while over Ramadi, Tornado GR4s supported the Iraqi forces again and struck three terrorist positions with Paveway IVs.

20 December: Two Tornado GR4s patrolled over northern Iraq and conducted a successful attack with a Paveway IV guided bomb on a large group of Daesh terrorists, loading supplies into a truck. A second pair of GR4s flew a reconnaissance mission over Ramadi, where they provided surveillance assistance to an attack by other coalition aircraft. The GR4s were then diverted north to the area around Bayji, where Iraqi ground forces were in close combat with Daesh extremists. Despite the close proximity of the Iraqi troops, the Tornados were able to conduct two sucessful precision attacks with Paveway IVs on the terrorists, who had been directing rocket and small arms fire at the Iraqis.

21 December: Typhoon FGR4s and an RAF Reaper operated around the Mosul area. The Typhoons used a Paveway IV bomb to destroy a Daesh vehicle, while the Reaper provided targeting support to a coalition air strike that destroyed a terrorist mortar position before delivering two attacks with its own Hellfire missiles which destroyed a supply vehicle and a Daesh-held building.

22 December: With Iraqi troops conducting ground assaults on Daesh positions in Ramadi, two pairs of RAF Tornados and a Reaper, provided the Iraqis with continuous close air support alongside other coalition aircraft. When the Daesh fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades and small arms at Iraqi soldiers tending to wounded personnel, the Tornados intervened with a very accurate Paveway strike. The Reaper, meanwhile, assisted other coalition aircraft in an attack that destroyed an anti-aircraft gun. A third pair of Tornados were over northern Iraq, supporting the Kurdish peshmerga, and conducted two successful Paveway IV attacks that destroyed a Daesh-held building and an observation post.

23 December: A Typhoon patrol to the east of Mosul conducted a total of six successful attacks with eight Paveway IV precision guided bombs, which destroyed four terrorist-held buildings and a tunnel, including ammunitions stores, several heavy machine-guns, and a sniper position. Further south, two flights of Tornado GR4s were contributing to the coalition air effort which supported the Iraqi army's offensive into the centre of Ramadi. The Tornados conducted six attacks, again with Paveway IVs, and although on every occasion Iraqi forces were in very close proximity to the terrorist targets, careful planning and the accuracy of the weapons allowed all six attacks to be a success. The Tornados' targets included three terrorist teams armed with rocket-propelled grenades, a sniper position, a Daesh group in close combat with Iraqi troops, and a large group of at least 17 terrorists, who suffered a direct hit. That night, a further pair of Tornados patrolled over Mosul, and destroyed two Daesh-held buildings with Paveways.

24 December: Typhoons operated near Mosul, where they destroyed another Daesh building with a Paveway, whilst over Ramadi, two pairs of Tornados again provided close air support to the Iraqi troops. The GR4s worked closely with other coalition aircraft to deliver two successful Paveway attacks on groups of terrorist fighters.

25 December: Tornados maintained close air support over Ramadi. Once again working closely with other coalition aircraft, they used Paveway IVs against two terrorist teams, an anti-aircraft gun, and a massed Daesh group who were assembling for an attempted counter-attack on the successful Iraqi advance. Meanwhile, over Syria, an RAF Reaper struck a Daesh checkpoint south of Raqqa with a Hellfire missile.

26 December: A Reaper patrolled over northern Iraq, where it destroyed a terrorist vehicle with a Hellfire, then supported a coalition air strike on a Daesh tunnel entrance.

27 December: RAF operations focused largely on northern Iraq, with Typhoons using Paveway bombs to engage an armoured vehicle and mortar teams in the area of Tal Afar and Kisik. South-west of Mosul, a Tornado flight destroyed two terrorist-occupied buildings with Paveway IVs, then attacked a group of extremists in the open. A second Typhoon patrol over the northern region assisted Kurdish peshmerga in close combat with Daesh, striking two terrorist groups with Paveway IVs.

28 December: A Typhoon FGR4 flight conducted a simultaneous attack with Paveway IV bombs on two buildings north-east of Mosul, occupied by a group of terrorist fighters. Both buildings were demolished, along with the terrorists' vehicle. The Typhoons then used Paveways to destroy two mechanical excavators being used by Daesh to construct defensive positions.

A second Typhoon mission was later flown over northern Iraq, and it delivered a successful Paveway IV strike on a team of terrorists who were preparing to fire rockets at Kurdish positions.

29 December: Typhoons and Tornado GR4s operated over Ramadi, as the Iraqi forces closed in on remaining pockets of Daesh extremists. The Typhoons bombed two machine-gun positions, while the Tornados conducted three attacks on a further two machine-gun nests and a strongpoint. Despite bad weather meaning that these attacks had to be carried out through thick cloud and with Iraqi soldiers in close proximity to the targets, careful planning by the aircrew and the precision guidance systems of the Paveway IV bombs allowed all the attacks to be successful without risk to friendly forces. Later on Tuesday evening, a Typhoon flying near Mosul was directed against a tunnel, where a large group of terrorists had been spotted massing inside. A direct hit was scored with a Paveway on the tunnel.

30 December: Two Tornado GR4s provided close air support over Ramadi, where they bombed two machine-gun positions engaged in close combat with Iraqi troops, and assisted another coalition aircraft in a strike on a Daesh team armed with rocket-propelled grenades. Near Sinjar, Typhoons assisted the peshmerga with an attack on a terrorist rocket launcher team. Typhoons and Tornados continued to patrol the Sinjar area on the last day of the year, using Paveways against a heavy machine-gun position and a Daesh group firing on Kurdish troops.

1 January: An RAF Reaper supported coalition air strikes in Ramadi, and on 2 January, another Reaper used a Hellfire missile to destroy a mortar position near Fallujah.

3 January: A busy day for RAF aircraft: Typhoons delivered four successful attacks in Ramadi against terrorist positions, including a mortar team. A second Typhoon mission over Ramadi conducted no less than six attacks, accounting for five machine-guns and a sniper position. Near Haditha, Tornados destroyed a truck-bomb, while a Reaper used Hellfires against two armed pick-up trucks and a group of terrorist fighters. Over northern Iraq, two more flights of Tornado GR4s successfully attacked a total of two mortar and four machine-gun positions.

Daesh terrorists have suffered further losses following intensive Royal Air Force strikes as part of the coalition's air campaign over Iraq and Syria.

4 January: A pair of RAF Typhoon FGR4s operated over northern Iraq and used Paveway IV precision guided bombs to attack eight terrorist mortar and rocket positions. Meanwhile, Tornado GR4s provided close air support to the Iraqi army as they continue their operations to eliminate the remaining terrorist fighters in and around Ramadi. When an Iraqi unit came under rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire from several Daesh-held buildings, the GR4s conducted a very accurate attack on all four buildings using Paveway IVs. The Tornados were tasked to deal with a group of terrorists who were preparing for a counter-attack. Despite this being a difficult target for most weapons, the GR4s were able to score a direct hit with a Brimstone missile.

An RAF Reaper was also patrolling over Ramadi it provided surveillance support for three air strikes by coalition fast jets, and also conducted two attacks using its own weapons, employing a GBU-12 laser guided bomb against a Daesh machine-gun team, and destroyed two terrorist trucks with a single Hellfire missile. On Monday evening, a Tornado patrol, supported as ever by a Voyager air refuelling tanker, used a Paveway IV to strike a Daesh-held building near Mosul.

5 January: RAF Typhoon patrols over Ramadi continued, they used Paveways to destroy two terrorist machine-gun positions, as well as an anti-aircraft gun that had opened fire on an Iraqi Air Force helicopter. Near Haditha, Reapers provided close air support to Iraqi security forces as Daesh attempted to mount an attack on them Hellfire missiles and a GBU-12 were used against two armed pick-up trucks, two machine-gun teams and groups of terrorist fighters. In the area around Mosul, Tornado GR4s hit two Daesh rocket teams.

6 January: Following their loss of control of key areas in Ramadi, Daesh extremists attempted to mount attacks against Iraqi ground forces near Haditha. Coalition aircraft provided extensive close air support to Iraqi troops, and a pair of RAF Tornado GR4s used two Paveway IV bombs in attacks on with an Iraqi terrorists who were engaged in close combat unit. The Typhoons then flew south to Ramadi, where operations continued as the Iraqis sought to eliminate those Daesh positions that remain in the city. Working closely with other coalition aircraft, the Typhoons conducted four Paveway attacks, destroying two machine-gun positions and two armoured personnel carriers.

In northern Iraq, Tornado GR4s supported Kurdish forces; south of Sinjar, a Paveway IV destroyed a terrorist team manning rocket launchers, while near Mosul, three fighting positions and three accommodation blocks used by Daesh were destroyed by six Paveways. Later in the day, Typhoons were once again over Ramadi, where they struck two terrorist positions, including a heavy machine-gun team that was firing on Iraqi troops.

7 January: Operations over Ramadi continued with Typhoons delivering six successful Paveway IV attacks on Daesh positions, including two more machine-gun teams. In the north, the Tornados were likewise again patrolling over Mosul and Kisik, and these missions used Paveways against a group of extremists and a rocket position.

8 January: Tornado GR4s conducted two more Paveway attacks near Mosul, striking rocket and machine-gun teams.

10 January: The focus turned to a series of targets inside Syria. Near Raqqa, a pair of Tornados bombed a pair of Daesh-held buildings, one of which was a confirmed command and control centre, and used a Brimstone missile to destroy a supply truck. A second pair of GR4s dropped four Paveway IVs on a tunnel complex, again near Raqqa, whilst a Reaper engaged a terrorist position with a Hellfire missile. During the evening, a further Tornado flight and a Reaper used a combination of Brimstone and Hellfire missiles to attack a number of mobile cranes brought in by Daesh to attempt to repair the severe damage inflicted by previous RAF and coalition air strikes on the Omar oil field.

11 January: A milestone was passed on Monday morning when an RAF Reaper flew the 1,000th sortie by the type since they were committed to operations against Daesh in October 2014.

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