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Update: air strikes against Daesh

5 December 2016

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

Latest update

- Monday 28 November – Typhoons destroyed a terrorist-held building and a tunnel entrance in northern and western Iraq, while a Reaper engaged Daesh targets near Mosul.

- Tuesday 29 November – Tornados struck a tank to the west of Mosul, a Reaper attacked further targets near the city, and Typhoons destroyed a weapons stockpile near Qayyarah.

- Saturday 3 December – a Reaper attacked a mortar near Mosul.

- Sunday 4 December – Tornados bombed a Daesh weapons factory and a headquarters in Syria, whilst a Reaper provided close air support around Mosul.


With Iraqi troops methodically clearing Daesh extremists from key locations around Mosul, a Royal Air Force Reaper worked with other coalition aircraft to provide close air support on Monday 28 November. The Reaper used its surveillance sensors to identify a number of terrorists and then provided targeting guidance which allowed two successful coalition attacks to be delivered. A pair of terrorists were subsequently tracked as they moved at high speed on a motorcycle to a new position, and were killed by a direct hit from one of the Reaper's Hellfire missiles. The Reaper then spotted in turn three Daesh mortars as they opened fire: one was destroyed by a coalition aircraft, one was silenced by artillery fire, and the third was struck by the Reaper itself, using a GBU-12 guided bomb. To the south, near Bayji, Typhoon FGR4s meanwhile used a Paveway IV to destroy a Daesh-held building. The Typhoons then headed west to Anbar province, where they employed a further Paveway to collapse the entrance to a terrorist tunnel network beneath a hillside south of Rawah.

Reaper operations around Mosul continued on Tuesday 29 November. A group of terrorists engaged in a firefight with Iraqi forces were struck with a Hellfire. Again, the Reaper proved a deadly hunter of Daesh mortar teams; a Hellfire destroyed one, and the aircraft's reconnaissance work allowed two more to be targeted by artillery fire and coalition aircraft. Some ten miles west of Mosul, Tornado GR4s scored a direct hit with a Brimstone missile on one of the few tanks operated by Daesh, while to the south-west, near Qayyarah, Typhoons bombed a weapons stockpile.

Very bad weather, including violent thunderstorms, seriously hampered air operations for several days. However, conditions improved sufficiently for a Reaper to resume operations over Mosul on Saturday 3 December. It conducted one attack, using a Hellfire, against a mortar, and was able to alert other coalition forces to the location of a large number of civilians potentially at risk in the area. Another Reaper continued to provide close air support to the Iraqi forces as they engaged in intensive street fighting around Mosul on Sunday 4 December; the Reaper's crew twice exploited the accuracy and small warhead of their Hellfire missiles to strike Daesh terrorists engaged in close combat with Iraqi troops, and also gave surveillance support to four successful attacks by coalition aircraft on heavily defended buildings, including one where a group of suicide bombers had mustered. Meanwhile, two flights of Tornados prosecuted Daesh targets in Syria: one pair joined other coalition aircraft in an attack on a large weapons factory which intelligence had established was being operated by Daesh some 15 miles west of Raqqah. The Tornados dropped three Enhanced Paveway II bombs which scored direct hits on their targets. In eastern Syria, the second Tornado flight used a pair of Paveway IV bombs to destroy a terrorist headquarters, plus an associated vehicle, located some 25 miles north-east of At Tibni.

Previous air strikes

Tuesday 1 November: Tornados patrolled north of Mosul where they supported advancing Kurdish forces. A Paveway IV guided bomb destroyed a Daesh heavy machine-gun position when it opened fire on the Peshmerga, while an Enhanced Paveway II demolished a building in which a light machine-gun was sited. Meanwhile, to the south-east of the city, a Reaper provided further close air support to Iraqi troops. It conducted Hellfire attacks on a mortar team who were spotted firing, and two groups of terrorists, including individuals with rocket-propelled grenades. The Reaper also directed a successful coalition air attack onto a number of terrorists defending a trench network.

Wednesday 2 November: A combination of Typhoon and Tornado aircraft patrolled to the east of the city. Some distance to the south-east, they used a Paveway IV guided bomb to destroy a building from which a terrorist mortar team was operating. They then flew north to eliminate a sniper position with a second Paveway.

Thursday 3 November: Tornados struck two further targets north-east of Mosul. A Paveway IV destroyed a building from which Daesh extremists were firing on advancing ground forces, while a Brimstone missile accounted for a terrorist vehicle. South-east of the city, a Reaper flew overwatch for Iraqi troops as they pressed forwards. The Reaper's crew used all four of its Hellfire missiles against a mortar team seen firing from amidst trees, and three groups of terrorists as they fired on the Iraqis with rocket-propelled grenades, as well as attempting to set fire to piles of tyres to create a smokescreen. The Reaper was also able to provide surveillance support to two air strikes by coalition aircraft which destroyed a fortified position and an armed truck.

Friday 4 November: Reaper operations continued south-east of Mosul, with our aircraft directing a successful coalition air attack onto its target, a weapons dump, and using one of its own Hellfires to engage a group of terrorists on foot. Two Tornados struck close air support targets inside eastern Mosul itself, using Brimstone missiles to destroy an armed vehicle and a large truck-bomb. A Paveway also hit a group of terrorists which another coalition aircraft had been carefully tracking as they manoeuvred towards Iraqi troops. A second Tornado flight supported Iraqi operations elsewhere in the country, and north-east of Mosul used Paveway IV and Enhanced Paveway II bombs to destroy a cave occupied by Daesh in the hills above Bayji, as well as a nearby stock of equipment.

Saturday 5 November: Three Hellfire attacks were launched by a Reaper near Mosul, against a truck-bomb, a mortar and a rocket-propelled grenade team. The Reaper also assisted in a coalition strike against a second mortar. On Sunday 6 November, Paveway IV-armed Typhoons bombed a terrorist group in the Tigris valley south of Mosul, while Tornados used a Brimstone missile to destroy an armoured personnel carrier inside the city. On the outskirts, a Reaper tracked a terrorist driving a truck-bomb towards Iraqi troops, but the truck exploded prematurely as it drove over rough ground, negating any need for the Reaper to fire at it. The Reaper instead used its Hellfires against a truck being loaded with spare weapons, a recoilless anti-tank gun, a rocket-propelled grenade team and an armed truck.

Monday 7 November: A Typhoon mission armed with Paveway IV guided bombs destroyed a stockpile of rocket and mortar equipment to the north of Bayji, and a Reaper conducting armed reconnaissance near Raqqah struck a Daesh vehicle with a Hellfire missile. Near Mosul, a Reaper provided close air support to Iraqi forces. Daesh fighters were observed firing a recoilless anti-tank gun at the Iraqi troops, then loading the weapon into a vehicle. As the vehicle pulled away, it was destroyed by a Hellfire. The Reaper's crew then used a further three Hellfires, which have a very low risk of collateral damage, in successful attacks on groups of extremists as they engaged in street fighting with the Iraqi troops.

Tuesday 8 November: Reaper operations in the area continued, with our aircraft conducting three further Hellfire attacks on terrorist fighters, as well as providing targeting support to a coalition air strike which destroyed a mortar team. To the north-east of Mosul, a pair of Typhoon FGR4s used Paveway IVs to destroy seven Daesh positions.

Wednesday 9 November: A Reaper spotted an armoured vehicle firing on Iraqi troops on the outskirts of Mosul, and destroyed it with a Hellfire.

Thursday 10 November: A Reaper provided overwatch to Iraqi troops engaged in street fighting at Abasi in northern Iraq. Its crew used Hellfire missiles against two groups of terrorists, including a light machine-gun team. In Mosul itself, a mortar was spotted in an area of heavily wooded parkland. It was destroyed by a Paveway IV guided bomb from a Typhoon flight. North of the city, Tornados used a Brimstone missile to kill several terrorists as they manoeuvred along a street.

Friday 11 November: A pair of Typhoons patrolled over Syria, supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces north of Raqqa. Another coalition aircraft was able to identify a Daesh armoured vehicle well concealed under trees, and was able to direct the Typhoon onto the target, which was duly destroyed with a Paveway IV. Meanwhile, south of Mosul, Tornados used another Paveway IV to demolish a terrorist strongpoint on the banks of the Tigris.

Saturday 12 November: A Reaper maintained surveillance around Mosul. As well as supporting a coalition air strike that eliminated a recoilless anti-tank gun team, our aircraft used three Hellfire missiles against a mortar and two groups of terrorists engaged in combat with Iraqi troops.

Sunday 13 November: Typhoons again operated north of Raqqa and were able to destroy an anti-aircraft gun near Thulth Khunayz. Some miles to the north-east of Mosul, Tornados used a Paveway IV to collapse a tunnel system, while closer to the city, a Hellfire from a Reaper destroyed a large weapon mounted on the rear of a lorry. The Reaper then used a GBU-12 laser guided bomb to attack successfully both a buried weapons cache and a nearby terrorist vehicle.

Monday 14 November: Royal Air Force Typhoons provided close air support to Iraqi forces as they fought to liberate the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. A group of terrorists were spotted repositioning in open country some distance north of Nimrud, and successfully struck with a Paveway IV guided bomb. To the north of Mosul, a Reaper provided similar close support to Kurdish troops, in particular hunting for Daesh mortars. The Reaper's crew successfully located two such weapons. One was subsequently destroyed by coalition jets guided onto the target by the Reaper, the second was struck using one of the Reaper's own Hellfire missiles.

Tuesday 15 November: A Reaper maintained patrols over Mosul and a further terrorist mortar team was silenced by a Hellfire missile. Tornados and Typhoons meanwhile maintained pressure on Daesh elsewhere in Iraq. The Tornados used a Paveway IV to bomb a terrorist bunker south of Haditha Lake, while the Typhoons destroyed a Daesh-held building to the west of Kirkuk.

Wednesday 16 November: The Typhoons operated in the same area using Paveway IVs against two more terrorist occupied buildings some 20 miles west of Kirkuk. A Reaper also continued to keep watch over eastern Mosul, where it successfully hunted down and killed two Daesh mortar teams, and supported a coalition fast jet attack that accounted for a third, vehicle-borne, mortar.

Two Typhoons, armed with Paveway IV guided bombs, were tasked on Thursday 17 November to deal with a group of buildings which Daesh had heavily booby-trapped with large improvised explosive devices in the path of the SDF's offensive north of Raqqa. Direct hits safely demolished all four target buildings, setting off large secondary explosions. Over Iraq the same day, two pairs of Tornados provided close air support over northern and western parts of the country. North-east of Tall Afar, one mission used a Paveway IV against a terrorist mortar position, while in the west, the other flight used an Enhanced Paveway II to bomb a bunker located in the countryside north-east of Rawah.

On Friday 18 November, a Reaper supported Iraqi troops as they fought to liberate the village of Umarkan, south of Mosul. The Reaper's crew observed a group of Daesh fighters retreating into a building. Having checked that there were no indications of any civilians in the area, the Reaper was able to direct a successful coalition air strike onto the target. Our aircraft then used two of its own Hellfire missiles to kill a group of terrorists as they manoeuvred in the open, and to destroy a vehicle carrying a mortar. In Mosul itself, a Typhoon flight used four Paveway IVs to destroy a weapons stockpile in a large isolated building on the western bank of the Tigris. A second pair of Typhoons meanwhile continued to support the SDF north of Raqqa. Working closely with a coalition surveillance aircraft, the Typhoons were able to destroy a terrorist strongpoint with a Paveway IV despite the SDF being very near the target. The Typhoons then used another Paveway IV against an artillery piece concealed in trees some ten miles north of Raqqa.

Tornados saw further action over Mosul on Sunday 20 November. On the southern edge of the city, to the east of Mosul airfield, an artillery piece had been spotted hidden amongst woodland. A Paveway IV was nevertheless successfully directed onto the target, and secondary explosions suggest ammunition was destroyed along with the gun itself.

Monday 21 November: A Royal Air Force Reaper remotely piloted aircraft provided close air support to an Iraqi unit as it pressed towards Mosul from the south-east of the city. The Reaper's crew tracked a group of terrorists who had been observed firing at the Iraqi troops and, when it was safe to do so, successfully engaged them with a Hellfire missile. Our aircraft then gave targeting and surveillance assistance to two coalition air strikes on larger groups of extremists, before carrying out two further attacks of its own with Hellfires against yet more Daesh militants.

Tuesday 22 November, a combined formation of two Typhoons and a Tornado conducted armed reconnaissance over the desert of western Iraq. A number of heavily-armed terrorists were reported to be encamped some 35 miles from Haditha. Their location was confirmed by the RAF flight, which then delivered a very effective attack with Paveway IV guided bombs. The following day, a Reaper was again in action south-east of Mosul. Most of its mission was devoted to hunting terrorist heavy weapons teams and conducting very patient surveillance to ensure there were no civilians at risk in the area. The Reaper directly supported one coalition air attack on an armed vehicle, and used three of its own Hellfires to destroy two Daesh mortars and a recoilless anti-tank gun which had all been observed when they attempted to engage the advancing Iraqi units. Meanwhile, south-west of Mosul, a Typhoon flight used a Paveway IV against a terrorist heavy machine-gun position.

Thursday 24 November: RAF aircraft have also continued to provide reconnaissance and strike support to the Syrian Democratic Forces as they push towards Raqqa. As part of this, a pair of Paveway-armed Typhoons destroyed a Daesh strongpoint located some 15 miles north of the city.

Friday 25 November: RAF and Coalition aircraft continue to support Iraqi forces as they press further into eastern Mosul, as the urban operating environment becomes increasingly congested and challenging. Tornados dealt with a particularly challenging target in eastern Mosul – a Daesh mortar hidden in trees next to a busy road. The Tornados used a Brimstone missile, which has a small warhead and a very precise targeting system, to strike the target accurately whilst limiting as far as possible the risk to the passing traffic. The Tornados then hit a second target, using a Paveway IV to destroy a workshop in south-eastern Mosul which was producing truck-bombs.

Sunday 27 November: Three Tornado and Typhoon flights conducted attacks in Mosul. One Tornado mission used Enhanced Paveway II and Paveway IV bombs to neutralise a large fortified building in northern Mosul, while a second Tornado flight conducted Brimstone attacks which destroyed two engineering vehicles, used by Daesh to construct defensive positions. In fields on the southern outskirts of the city, Typhoons caught a large group of terrorists setting up a mortar which they had just unloaded from a truck. A direct hit from a Paveway IV destroyed the mortar, killed the terrorists and damaged the truck. The Typhoons then destroyed a second mortar nearby.

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