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Military

Update: air strikes against Daesh

4 April 2017

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

Summary

- Thursday 30 March – Typhoons attacked three Daesh targets that formed part of a defensive network south-west of Kirkuk.
- Sunday 2 April – Tornados engaged a mortar team firing from the ground floor of a large building in western Mosul.
- Monday 3 April – Tornados and Typhoons engaged Daesh mortar positions in western Mosul.

Detail

The RAF has continued to support Iraqi forces in their effort to liberate western Mosul. While the operating environment in the city is very challenging, particularly given the closely-packed buildings, very narrow streets, and the density of the urban population, our aircrew have continued to deliver precision strikes in close support of Iraqi troops on the ground. Daesh's current tactics, including the illegal use of civilians as human shields, and fighting from sites such as schools, hospitals, religious sites and civilian neighbourhoods, increases the risk to innocent life. While no military operations come without risk, particularly in dense urban environments and against such inhuman Daesh tactics, the RAF continues to take all steps necessary to minimise civilian causalities.

As Daesh continue to be driven out of areas of western Mosul by the Iraqi offensive to liberate the city, operations also continued against other pockets of Daesh occupation. Two Typhoons based at RAF Akrotiri targeted a fortified network of defensive positions, some 17 miles south-west of Kirkuk on Thursday 30 March. Three Paveway IV guided bombs were dropped in a simultaneous attack on two buildings within a Daesh-held compound, and a third building a short distance to the south. All three targets were destroyed.

On Sunday 2 April, Tornados, supported by a Voyager air tanker, patrolled over western Mosul. When Iraqi forces came under Daesh mortar fire, the Tornados' aircrew were able to identify the mortar team firing their weapon out of the ground floor of a large building. This allowed the Tornados to achieve a clear line of fire for a Brimstone missile, which scored a direct hit on the mortar team while causing minimal damage to the rest of the building.

Tornados and Typhoons conducted attacks in western Mosul on Monday 3 April, also against Daesh mortars. The Typhoons had to bomb through cloud, but the Iraqi ground forces, only metres away, reported that the terrorist position had been struck accurately. The Tornados, also hampered by cloud, targeted a mortar that was firing on an Iraqi unit from the top storey of a tall building. A Paveway IV was employed with a carefully selected fuse setting, and it successfully demolished just the uppermost storey, leaving the rest of the building intact.

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 March: A Reaper remotely piloted aircraft assisted Iraqi troops in western Mosul, 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.

Thursday 2 March: Typhoons had to deal with heavy cloud over Mosul, 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.

Friday 3 March: Tornados experienced similarly difficult cloud conditions, 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.

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.

Monday 6 March: Careful intelligence analysis allowed the Coalition to pinpoint the location of a Daesh headquarters at a compound in a remote area of eastern Syria. Two Typhoons were dispatched from RAF Akrotiri, targeting the two key buildings within the compound. Both were demolished by Paveway IV guided bombs. Tornados meanwhile supported Iraqi ground operations in western Mosul by using Paveway IVs to strike three key routes within the city, helping to prevent Daesh from sending reinforcements or truck-bombs to areas being successfully liberated by the Iraqi troops.

Tuesday 7 March: Similar work was performed by Paveway-armed Typhoons, when they cut a major highway leading out of Mosul towards positions still held by Daesh to the north-west of the city. Inside Mosul, a Tornado flight used a Paveway IV to deal very effectively with a sniper team which was holding up an Iraqi advance.

Wednesday 8 March: A pair of Tornados initially operated north-west of Mosul, where they struck a mortar position on the south bank of the Tigris using a Paveway IV. They then provided direct support to Iraqi forces inside western Mosul, engaging a sniper who was firing on the Iraqis, and hitting a building defended by a number of terrorists.

Thursday 9 March: A Coalition surveillance patrol observed a Daesh tunnel system some 30 miles west of Kirkuk. Royal Air Force Typhoons used a single Paveway IV guided bomb to collapse the tunnel entrance. The Typhoons then flew north-west to support Iraqi forces in western Mosul. Two choke-points had been identified on the road network into a district which the Iraqi troops were clearing. These choke-points were duly struck with Paveway IVs to prevent any Daesh reinforcements or truck-bombs being moved into the area. Tornados were also active that day over Mosul. They successfully used a total of three Paveway IVs to engage two mortars and a building from which Daesh fighters were firing at the Iraqi forces.

Friday 10 March: Two flights of Paveway-armed Typhoons maintained a presence in the Mosul area. One pair destroyed a mortar team on a hill above the Tigris, to the west of the city, then eliminated a group of Daesh fighters engaged in close combat with Iraqi troops inside western Mosul. The second flight also struck a Daesh position inside the city. This was again a challenging target, given the proximity of friendly forces, but the attack was accomplished successfully.

Sunday 12 March: Tornados armed with Enhanced Paveway II weapons conducted a carefully planned strike on a large Daesh headquarters in Syria, situated a couple of miles south of Raqqa. The attack had to be delivered through heavy cloud, but both of the target buildings were destroyed by direct hits. Support to the Mosul operation also continued, with Typhoons demolishing a strong-point which the Iraqi forces had encountered during their advance.

Monday 13 March: Royal Air Force Typhoons provided close air support to Iraqi troops engaged in intensive street fighting with Daesh extremists inside Mosul. The Typhoons, armed with Paveway IV guided bombs, first conducted an attack north-west of the city on a terrorist supply route. They then carried out strikes which destroyed six Daesh defensive positions in western Mosul. Each of these six targets required very demanding work from our aircrew, since the targets were at times obscured by cloud, and the Iraqi troops whom they were supporting were extremely close to the strong-points. Nevertheless, each of the six targets were destroyed by a direct hit, and the Iraqi forces confirmed that the threat each had posed had been eliminated.

Wednesday 15 March: Iraqi troops in west Mosul reported encountering a former school compound and two neighbouring buildings now occupied by a large number of Daesh fighters, armed with light machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Two Tornados attacked after dark, having conducted careful checks for any sign of civilians in the area, and hit the Daesh positions in the former school's courtyard and the nearby buildings with three Paveway IVs, which destroyed the terrorist firing points.

Friday 17 March: Tornado close support missions over Mosul continued. Our aircrew again faced very challenging conditions with heavy cloud and having to engage targets perilously close to the Iraqi troops whom they were assisting. Nevertheless, five terrorist positions, including a mortar team, were successfully destroyed by Paveway IVs.

Saturday 18 March: A Daesh headquarters was identified at a small building five miles east of Raqqa, this was destroyed by a direct hit from a Paveway IV released by a Tornado flight.

Sunday 19 March: A busy day for both the Tornado and Typhoon aircrews over Mosul. Yet again working very closely with the Iraqi troops, they repeatedly struck Daesh positions engaged in extremely close combat with the security forces. In total, eleven Daesh targets, including sniper, heavy machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade teams, were eliminated by Paveway IVs.

Monday 20 March: Action continued when Tornados bombed a strong-point in the west of the city, and Typhoons struck two Daesh positions, including one from which heavy machine-gun fire was being directed at the Iraqis.

Wednesday 22 March: Royal Air Force Typhoons flew close air support missions over west Mosul, in support of Iraqi ground forces as they continued to engage Daesh terrorists in very close combat in the city's streets. Our aircraft conducted a simultaneous attack with Paveway IV guided bombs on two terrorist positions. The expertise of both the aircrew and the Iraqi troops allowed the attack to be delivered despite Iraqi forces being only tens of metres from the Daesh fighters. A second attack then eliminated a further group of Daesh fighters, armed with light machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Thursday 23 March: The large truck-bomb remains one of Daesh's favoured weapons. The extremist group uses them in desperate circumstances in order to try and slow down Iraqi troops or keep liberated areas unsafe. To limit the movement of these indiscriminate weapons, two Typhoons conducted attacks with Paveway IVs against one of the main roads leading out of western Mosul and a number of surrounding lesser routes. They also struck a Daesh position in western Mosul, where several surviving Daesh fighters were seen to fleeing to afterwards, allowing the Iraqi advance to continue.

Friday 24 March: A Typhoon flight, armed with Paveway IVs, targeted the entrance to a tunnel some six miles west of Tall Afar. Other coalition aircraft had successfully destroyed a neighbouring building used by the terrorists, but Daesh had also been spotted making use of the tunnel, most probably for ammunition or supply storage. A direct hit from a Paveway IV collapsed the tunnel entrance. The Typhoons then headed east to support operations in Mosul, where they attacked four Daesh-held buildings which the extremists were using to fire at Iraqi units. A second Typhoon pair were also active over the city. They provided similar assistance to Iraqi forces engaged in close combat, striking three terrorist positions with Paveway IVs. A flight of Tornados also patrolled over Mosul and the surrounding area, where they conducted a simultaneous strike on two Daesh strong-points inside the city. They then headed north-west to deal with a reported mortar team. The terrorists were spotted with a vehicle in rocky ground near the Tigris, and hit with a Paveway.

On Monday 27 March: Armed reconnaissance missions continued over the weekend, gathering intelligence on Daesh positions in Syria and Iraq. Typhoons again patrolled over Mosul, and used one Paveway IV against a building from which Daesh fighters were continuing to engage Iraqi forces. Over eastern Syria, two Tornados attacked a building in a remote area south of Hasakah, from which a Daesh mortar team was operating against Syrian Democratic Forces.



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