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Update: air strikes against Daesh

28 December 2016

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

Latest update

- Thursday 22 December – Tornados destroyed a tank south-west of Sinjar in northern Iraq.
- Friday 23 December – Typhoons bombed a terrorist position north of Tabaqah in Syria; in Iraq, Tornados hit a weapons cache north-east of Haditha, and a Reaper destroyed an artillery gun near Mosul.
- Sunday 25 December – Tornados and Typhoons attacked three Daesh targets in and around Mosul.
- Tuesday 27 December – Typhoons destroyed a heavy machine-gun position whilst supporting Syrian Democratic Forces west of Raqqah.


Operations against the Daesh terrorist network have continued unabated during the holiday period, with Royal Air Force aircraft supporting Iraqi operations to liberate Mosul, and the advance on Raqqah by Syrian Democratic Forces. On Thursday 22 December, two Tornado GR4s, based at RAF Akrotiri, were tasked against one of the few tanks operated by Daesh, which had been spotted by coalition surveillance aircraft hidden under a tarpaulin in an orchard to the south-west of Sinjar. The tank was destroyed by a direct hit from a Brimstone missile. The next day, Typhoon FGR4s, armed with Paveway IV guided bombs, patrolled over Syria and successfully attacked a terrorist position which SDF fighters had encountered to the north of Tabaqah, near Lake Assad. In Iraq, Tornados used Paveway IVs to destroy a weapons stockpile some 50 miles north-east of Haditha, whilst a Reaper remotely piloted aircraft assisted the Iraqi operations in Mosul; its crew conducted a thorough check for civilians who might be at risk before a successful coalition air strike destroyed another weapons stockpile. The Reaper then delivered an attack using one of its own Hellfire missiles to destroy an artillery piece loaded on a trailer - as with the tank, the terrorists had attempted to hide the gun under a tarpaulin in thick woodland to the north-west of the city, but to no avail.

Christmas Day saw Mosul blanketed with thick cloud, but both Typhoons and Tornados were able, by dint of close cooperation with the Iraqi forces on the ground, to prosecute Daesh targets in and around the city. A pair of Typhoons used a Paveway IV to attack a small bridge used by the terrorists, whilst a Tornado flight attacked two Daesh strong-points with which the Iraqi troops were engaged in close combat; the first was destroyed by an Enhanced Paveway II guided bomb, the second – from which a machine-gun was firing – was struck by a Paveway IV. Both attacks were delivered blind through the cloud, but the Iraqi units reported direct hits which eliminated the threats that they had faced.

Typhoons continued to support the SDF operations in Syria, and on Tuesday 27 December, they used a Paveway IV to strike a heavy machine-gun position located in a building to the west of Raqqah.

UK contribution to the fight against Daesh

Map of UK forces committed to Operation Shader
Map of UK forces committed to Operation Shader

Previous air strikes

Saturday 3 December: 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. 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.

Sunday 4 December: Another Reaper continued to provide close air support to the Iraqi forces as they engaged in intensive street fighting around Mosul. 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.

Monday 5 December: With Iraqi forces continuing to clear Daesh positions in eastern Mosul, a Royal Air Force Reaper flew overwatch for the operation. It performed an important role in tracking the movements of civilian refugees through the area, allowing coalition attacks to be halted or delayed as necessary. The Reaper also identified a group of Daesh fighters who were subsequently struck by Coalition fast jets. The Reaper's crew then spotted a heavy machine-gun firing on Iraqi troops, and destroyed it with a Hellfire missile.

Wednesday 7 December: A pair of Typhoons, armed with Paveway IV guided bombs, and supported by a Voyager air refuelling tanker, attacked a Daesh bunker dug into the hills some 25 miles north-west of Haditha. After the attack, smoke rose from the tunnel entrances some distance away, proving that the strike was successful. A second pair of Typhoons operated north of Mosul, where they used a Paveway IV to destroy a Daesh-held building. Meanwhile, a Reaper continued close air support over eastern Mosul. An armoured truck was tracked as Daesh fighters attempted to hide it in a vehicle shelter, allowing it to be destroyed by coalition jets. The Reaper then conducted three attacks using its own Hellfires against groups of extremists engaged in close combat with the advancing Iraqi troops.

Thursday 8 December: Tornados and a Reaper patrolled over Mosul. The Tornados were able to use the small, highly accurate Brimstone missile to dispose safely of an armoured personnel carrier positioned close to a hospital in the south of the city. Meanwhile, the Reaper hunted targets in the city centre, using three Hellfire missiles to pick off groups of extremists caught moving in the open.

Friday 9 December: Another Reaper enjoyed similar success, when it also operated over central Mosul. It conducted three Hellfire attacks against Daesh fighters, including some armed with rocket-propelled grenades, and a mortar team that was spotted as it opened fire. In the east of the city, Typhoons assisted Iraqi forces as they fought a Daesh group holding a building at the end of a street. Particular care was taken in planning the air attack, as the Iraqi troops were very close to the target, but our aircrew were able to score a direct hit with a Paveway IV, which destroyed the building and removed the threat to the ground forces.

Monday 12 December: Intelligence analysis identified a set of buildings some miles north-east of Bayji, where Daesh were storing weapons and manufacturing explosives. A pair of Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s, supported by a Voyager tanker, were tasked to attack the site. Our aircraft used three Paveway IV guided bombs against different buildings within the compound, and successfully destroyed each of these targets.

Wednesday 14 December: Operations to liberate Mosul continue, with Iraqi troops carefully clearing terrorists from areas in the east of the city. A unit encountered significant resistance from a group of Daesh fortified in a building. RAF Tornado GR4s were overhead, but unable to see the target due to thick cloud cover. Nevertheless, very careful coordination with the ground forces, who were very close to the terrorist strongpoint, allowed the Tornados to deliver a precision strike through the cloud cover with a Paveway IV which the Iraqi troops reported scored a direct hit on the building and eliminated the threat they faced.

Other RAF aircraft have continued to fly reconnaissance missions over both Syria and Iraq, with Airseeker and Sentinel surveillance platforms gathering vital intelligence on Daesh activity in recent days. Hercules transports have also continued their essential work, supporting the large British military training teams which are constantly working with coalition partners to help improve the capabilities of the Iraqi forces so that they are even better equipped to defeat the terrorists.

Thursday 15 December: Despite very heavy cloud over Mosul, Royal Air Force and other coalition aircraft continued to provide support to the Iraqi ground forces advancing into the city. Iraqi troops engaged a large group of Daesh fighters in close combat in eastern Mosul. A pair of Tornados worked in very close coordination with the Iraqi unit to establish both their precise positions and those of the terrorists. As a result, two Paveway IV guided bombs were dropped with great accuracy through the clouds. The Iraqis reported that they had scored direct hits, killing their opponents. The Tornados then provided assistance to troops fighting in the north of the city, who had encountered a building from where Daesh were directing rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine-gun fire. As before, the Tornado crews were unable to see the target themselves but were able to demolish the building with an Enhanced Paveway II guided bomb without injury to the nearby Iraqi forces.

Sunday 18 December: A Reaper operated over the northern outskirts of Mosul. Its crew observed a number of Daesh fighters on board an armoured truck which proceeded to drive at speed towards Iraqi positions just north of the city. A Hellfire missile from the Reaper brought the attempted attack to an immediate halt, knocking out the truck. The following day, two Typhoons armed with Paveway IV guided bombs attacked two buildings east of Tall Afar, which intelligence had revealed were being used by Daesh as accommodation blocks. One building was completely demolished, the other set ablaze by the strike.

Tuesday 20 December: Operating again in challenging conditions over Mosul, two Tornados were still able to support Iraqi forces as they engaged a Daesh light machine-gun team defending a building in the north-eastern area of the city. As with the attacks a few days earlier, the Iraqi troops were very close to the target, but our aircrew carried out a successful attack with a Paveway IV.

Wednesday 21 December: Typhoons tasked with the destruction of a Daesh-held building some miles to the north-east of Bayji, where intelligence reports indicated a number of improvised explosive devices had been stockpiled by the terrorists. A Paveway IV levelled the building. In eastern Mosul, Iraqi troops came upon a heavy machine-gun team, once again fortified inside a building, and sought assistance from a Tornado patrol which was able to destroy the target with a Paveway IV.

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