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Update: air strikes against Daesh

9 January 2017

The renewed counter-Daesh offensive to liberate Mosul in Iraq, coupled with the advance of forces in Syria, has resulted in a busy period for Royal Air Force aircraft, providing close air support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activity as part of the coalition air campaign.

Summary

- Wednesday 4 January – Typhoons destroyed a truck-bomb factory in northern Iraq and a bridge used by Daesh in western Iraq.

- Thursday 5 January – Tornados struck a mortar in central Mosul, while a Reaper supported Iraqi troops in several fire fights in the south-east of the city.

- Friday 6 January – Typhoons bombed a sniper position west of Raqqa in Syria, a Reaper provided further assistance to Iraqi forces in Mosul.

- Saturday 7 January – A Reaper intervened twice in close-quarter fighting in south-east Mosul.

- Sunday 8 January – Tornados attacked a truck-bomb workshop and buried weapons cache in northern Iraq, a Reaper destroyed a boat on the Tigris in Mosul, and Typhoons hit an artillery piece in Syria to the west of Raqqa.

Detail

On Wednesday 4 January, two flights of Royal Air Force Typhoons carried out attacks on Daesh targets in northern and western Iraq. One pair of Typhoons headed to a site north of Tall Afar, where intelligence had located a group of three buildings used by Daesh to manufacture truck-bombs. All three buildings were demolished using Paveway IV guided bombs. The second flight, also armed with Paveway IVs, successfully targeted a bridge used by the terrorists to cross a tributary of the Euphrates in Anbar province.

The main focus for RAF and other Coalition aircraft has remained the providing close air support to Iraqi operations to liberate Mosul. A Tornado mission on Thursday 5 January used a Paveway IV to destroy a mortar position in central Mosul. Meanwhile, a Reaper remotely piloted aircraft flew overwatch for Iraqi troops advancing in the south-eastern area of the city. Our aircraft conducted three very precise attacks with Hellfire missiles against extremists as they fought with the Iraqis, and provided surveillance support to three further strikes by other Coalition aircraft.

Reaper operations over south-east Mosul continued on Friday 6 January, with three more Hellfire attacks which killed Daesh fighters engaged in very close-quarter combat with the Iraqi forces. Assistance was also provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces in their offensive towards Raqqa, with a pair of Typhoons bombing a Deash sniper position on the north-eastern shore of Lake Assad.

On Saturday 7 January, a Reaper again used the precision of its Hellfire missiles to hit terrorists twice during street-fighting in south-eastern Mosul.

Sunday 8 January saw further Typhoon operations in support of the SDF west of Raqqa, destroying an artillery piece hidden in woods was hit with a Paveway IV. A Tornado flight also patrolled over northern Iraq, using a pair of Paveway IVs to destroy a truck-bomb workshop some 35 miles south-west of Kirkuk. A further pair of Paveways were used to attack a stockpile of weapons buried in shipping containers south of Sinjar. A Reaper, as ever maintaining a presence over Mosul, meanwhile observed a group of Daesh attempting to cross the Tigris in a small boat. A direct hit from a Hellfire completely destroyed the craft.

Previous update

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.

Thursday 22 December: 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. 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.

Friday 23 December: 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.

Sunday 25 December: 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.

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

Thursday 29 December: Two Tornado GR4s and a Reaper patrolled over the city. The Reaper used its advanced sensors for the vital task of scanning for any sign of civilians who might be placed at risk by the fighting. It also provided surveillance assistance to five coalition air attacks that struck two communications towers, a mortar, a transport vehicle and a recoilless anti-tank gun, as well as conducting three successful attacks using its own Hellfire missiles against a mortar team firing from a treeline and two groups of terrorist fighters located in south-east Mosul. The Tornados meanwhile used a Brimstone missile to destroy a cart laden with weapons in a street in eastern Mosul, and Paveway IV guided bombs against an artillery position hidden amongst trees in parkland in northern Mosul. The GR4s were then tasked to fly west into Syria to deal with a terrorist artillery piece, mounted on a trailer, which had been identified a couple miles north of Palmyra. The weapon was destroyed by a direct hit from a Brimstone.

Friday 30 December: A Reaper continued patrols over eastern Mosul. It provided targeting assistance to coalition air attacks on a Daesh-held compound and a group of extremists, and used its Hellfire missiles to intervene with great precision in two actions where Iraqi troops were engaged in close combat with terrorist fighters.

New Year's Day: Similar Reaper operations occurred on New Year's Day, with our aircraft destroying a group of terrorists with one Hellfire, then using a second to knock out an armed truck which it had spotted reversing in and out of cover to fire bursts from a heavy machine-gun. A flight of Typhoon FGR4s were also active over northern Mosul, where they used a Paveway IV to attack a mortar position just to the north of the city.

Monday 2 January: The British military training mission in Iraq sadly suffered a fatality when Lance Corporal Scott Hetherington from the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment died in a non-combat incident at a training camp in Taji. Further information can be found here.

A Reaper patrol also on 2 January over Mosul provided surveillance support to coalition air strikes on terrorist fighters, including a recoilless anti-tank gun team, and employed a Hellfire to silence a Daesh rooftop position that was firing on Iraqi troops.

3 January: A further Reaper attack occurred in south-east Mosul, striking a pair of terrorists who were in close proximity to Iraqi forces, whilst some 20 miles south of Kirkuk, a Tornado flight destroyed a Daesh truck with a Paveway IV.



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