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Military

Update: air strikes against Daesh

6 March 2017

The RAF are continuing to take the fight to Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

Summary

- Tuesday 28 February – Tornados destroyed Daesh positions north-west of Mosul, and several terrorist positions south-west of Bayji.
- Wednesday 1 March – Tornados and a Reaper struck five Daesh targets in western Mosul, including a truck-bomb factory.
- Thursday 2 March – Typhoons hit a machine-gun position in western Mosul.
- Friday 3 March – Typhoons and Tornados struck seven Daesh targets in western Mosul.
- Sunday 5 March – Tornados destroyed a Daesh-held building and tunnel on the banks of the Tigris, while Typhoons hit two targets in Mosul, as well as a cave and fortified position near Tall Afar.

Detail

Royal Air Force aircraft have continued to provide close air support to Iraqi forces as they methodically clear Daesh positions in western Mosul.

On Tuesday 28 February, a pair of Tornados used two Paveway IV guided bombs to attack a network of trenches and firing points, which a coalition aircraft had identified just to the north-west of the city. The aircraft then headed south, to a remote area south-west of Bayji, where a number of Daesh fighters had been spotted with a truck. The Tornados observed the extremists making preparations to dry out home-made explosives. Apparently becoming aware of the aircraft overhead, the fighters split into two groups and attempted to move away on foot. However the groups were tracked by a Tornado and both were struck by Paveway IVs.

A Reaper remotely piloted aircraft assisted Iraqi troops in western Mosul on Wednesday 1 March, using a Hellfire missile and a GBU-12 guided bomb to eliminate Daesh fighters, including a sniper, engaged at close quarters with the Iraqis. The Reaper also used its surveillance sensors to check that a target area was clear of civilians before a coalition air strike. Two flights of Tornados armed with Paveway IVs also operated over western Mosul that day. The first pair destroyed a strong-point held by terrorists armed with light machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades, while the second pair dealt with a sniper before demolishing two buildings that were part of a factory producing truck-bombs.

Typhoons had to deal with heavy cloud over Mosul on Thursday 2 March, with the challenging weather conditions denying them clear sight of the target when an Iraqi unit came under machine-gun fire from a Daesh strong-point at short range. Despite these conditions, very careful coordination with the Iraqi troops allowed the Typhoons to hit the Daesh position accurately with a Paveway IV, without endangering friendly forces. The Iraqi unit reported that the machine-gun had been silenced and the threat to them eliminated.

Tornados experienced similarly difficult cloud conditions on Friday 3 March, when they struck four Daesh-held buildings in western Mosul. The Iraqi ground forces reported that all four targets had been safely destroyed, with at least one heavy machine-gun also put out of action. Typhoons also engaged a further three targets in the city, striking a road junction to prevent Daesh moving supplies and truck-bombs along the route, and eliminating sniper and light machine-gun teams.

On Sunday 5 March, a pair of Typhoons operated around Tall Afar. They used Paveway IVs to target successfully a cave where terrorists had set up base, together with a near-by fortified position. A second pair of Typhoons maintained close air support over western Mosul, where they bombed first a Daesh strong-point and then a checkpoint that had been established in a large building on the outskirts to control a route out of the city. 20 miles north-west of Mosul, another Daesh location had been detected, with terrorists occupying a building on the banks of the Tigris. Tornados struck the building, and then used a further Paveway IV to collapse a tunnel that had been dug close by.

UK contribution to the fight against Daesh


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

Campaign against Daesh


Map of Daesh losses and gains in Iraq and Syria since September 2014
Map of Daesh losses and gains in Iraq and Syria since September 2014

Previous update

Wednesday 1 February: While other RAF aircraft conducted reconnaissance patrols to assess Daesh activity in Syria and Iraq, Typhoons were tasked with the destruction of a building some twenty miles west of Mosul which intelligence had identified was being used by Daesh as a staging post for the movement of extremists and equipment. A single Paveway IV sufficed to demolish the building once a very careful check had been made by the aircrew for any civilians who might be in the vicinity of the target.

Thursday 2 February: Royal Air Force Tornados, supported as ever by a Voyager air refuelling tanker, patrolled over northern Iraq. Daesh were occupying a building some 20 miles west of Kirkuk, when Tornados, after conducting a careful check against any civilians being close to the target, struck the building with a Paveway IV guided bomb.

Friday 3 February: Typhoons operated over western Mosul as Iraqi forces continued their preparations to liberate that part of the city from the terrorists. Daesh had concealed an artillery piece in an open-sided building on the southern outskirts of west Mosul, covering the approaches to the city. Again, a single Paveway IV from the Typhoons destroyed the target. Meanwhile, a pair of Tornados conducted armed reconnaissance to the north-west of Mosul, where a barge and a smaller boat had been spotted being used by the terrorists on the Tigris. Two Brimstone missiles were fired, sinking both vessels.

Sunday 5 February: Typhoons headed to a remote location some forty miles north-east of Tikrit, where a Daesh headquarters had been identified. The building and a vehicle shed were both destroyed by direct hits from Paveway IVs.

Tuesday 7 February: A group of Daesh fighters, armed with a heavy machine-gun, attempted to cross the Tigris in a boat, close to where the Tornados had sunk the river craft two days earlier. The terrorists were unaware that they were being closely tracked by coalition surveillance aircraft, and a Hellfire missile from an RAF Reaper sank the boat in mid-channel.

Wednesday 8 February: A Tornado flight used two Paveway IVs to destroy a pair of Daesh-held buildings some 20 miles south of Kirkuk. To the north-west of Mosul, a Typhoon mission supported Kurdish forces, and used a Paveway IV to strike a tunnel in which a group of extremists had taken shelter.

Saturday 11 February: As the Iraqi forces prepare for the offensive to liberate the western half of Mosul, Royal Air Force aircraft have patrolled the approaches to that part of the city, gathering intelligence and striking Daesh targets as they are identified. Two Typhoon FGR4s from RAF Akrotiri, supported by a Voyager tanker and armed with Paveway IV guided bombs, conducted a successful attack on a terrorist tunnel and bunker dug into a hillside some seven miles to the south-west of the city.

Sunday 12 February: A pair of Tornado GR4s were directed towards two Daesh cargo trucks which had been spotted five miles north-west of Mosul. The Tornados each fired a Brimstone missile, resulting in direct hits on both vehicles.

Tuesday 14 February: Careful surveillance operations allowed a building on the north-western outskirts of Mosul to be identified as a Daesh headquarters. With Iraqi forces keeping close watch from across the Tigris, a flight of Typhoons were able to conduct a highly accurate attack late at night; two Paveway IVs demolished the target.

Friday 17 February: A pair of Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri conducted an armed reconnaissance patrol over northern Iraq. They were directed towards a terrorist strongpoint which had been identified some 17 miles west of Kirkuk. Having carefully checked the surrounding area for any indication of civilians who might be placed at risk, the Tornados released a single Paveway IV guided bomb which destroyed the target with a direct hit.

Sunday 19 February: With the launch of the Iraqi offensive to liberate western Mosul, Tornados formed part of the coalition air support. Our aircraft conducted two attacks during the course of their mission: a Paveway IV was used to strike a Daesh mortar position just to the south of Mosul, then a second Paveway destroyed another mortar sited to the north-west of the city – although the mortar itself was not visible to the aircrew, the impact of the Paveway caused a sizeable secondary explosion, indicating that the ammunition supply had been hit.

Tuesday 21 February: Other RAF aircraft carried out intensive reconnaissance patrols over both Syria and Iraq during this period, and further attacks were delivered by both Tornados and Typhoons. Two Typhoon FGR4s were tasked with the mission of denying Daesh the use of a causeway across the Little Zab river, a number of miles west of Kirkuk. Paveway IV guided bombs demolished not only the causeway, but also heavy machine-gun and mortar positions guarding it. The Tornados continued their operations to support the Iraqi forces advancing on western Mosul. A Daesh artillery piece, sited some 15 miles north-west of the city, opened fire on Iraqi troops. Iraqi artillery fire in return forced the terrorists manning the gun to seek shelter, and before they were able to re-crew the weapon, the Tornado flight arrived on the scene and destroyed it with a direct hit from a Paveway IV. The ammunition stockpile was also set on fire. The Tornados then patrolled over west Mosul itself, and used a second Paveway IV to collapse a tunnel entrance on the city's southern outskirts.

Wednesday 22 February: A further Tornado mission saw our aircraft use Paveway IVs to cut the road network leading out of south-west Mosul, preventing efforts by Daesh to move men and supplies, particularly their favoured truck-bomb weapons, to resist the advance of the Iraqi forces. Four key chokepoints at a major junction on the southern outskirts of the city were chosen, all at a safe distance from residential areas, and all were accurately struck by the guided bombs.

Thursday 23 February: A flight of RAF Tornados used a Paveway IV guided bomb to attack a Daesh mortar team operating inside western Mosul. The aircrew waited patiently for some unidentified, possibly civilian, traffic to move clear of the target before they delivered a successful strike.

Friday 24 February: Another Tornado mission attacked a further mortar position which was under the cover of some trees in western Mosul, again using a single Paveway IV for the attack. A Reaper remotely piloted aircraft meanwhile flew overwatch for an Iraqi unit as it advanced into the city. The Iraqi troops encountered a bulldozer rigged with explosives which was blocking movement along a street. With the Iraqis taking cover, the Reaper's crew were able to destroy safely the booby-trapped vehicle with a Hellfire missile. The Reaper then scouted over a group of workshops known to produce improvised armoured vehicles and truck bombs. Two such vehicles were identified, one parked in the open, the other being worked on in a garage, and both were destroyed with direct hits from Hellfires.

Sunday 26 February: Two flights of Tornados operated over northern Iraq. One patrolled just to the west of Mosul, where a Paveway IV was employed to kill a small group of terrorists as they manoeuvred in the open. The second pair of Tornados headed to an area some 25 miles south-west of Tall Afar, where a number of Daesh armoured trucks had been spotted. The Tornados found one pair of vehicles on the move across the desert and destroyed both with simultaneous attacks with Brimstone missiles. A convoy of five more armoured trucks was then identified nearby, stationary on a stretch of road. All were destroyed with a combination of Brimstones and Paveway IVs. A series of secondary explosions ensued as the vehicles and their cargoes burned.

Monday 27 February: Tornados saw further action over western Mosul, when they struck another terrorist mortar team with a Paveway IV. The Tornado flight then headed west into Syria, where a main battle tank operated by Daesh had been identified at Tadmur, in the ancient city of Palmyra. A Brimstone missile scored a solid hit on the target. Close to Iraq's border with Syria, a Reaper meanwhile provided surveillance support to coalition air strikes on two Daesh facilities in Al Qaim, manufacturing truck-bombs and other improvised explosive devices. An anti-aircraft gun was spotted, despite efforts to conceal it under cover, and was destroyed by one of the Reaper's Hellfires.



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