RAF Tornado GR4, RAF Coningsby, by SAC Graham Taylor (MOD, Crown Copyright) [800px]

Op Shader Rains Hellfire and Brimstone on ISIS

RAF Drops Over 200 Bombs on ISIS Targets This Year

An analysis of MOD statistics on the progress of Operation Shader, part of Inherent Resolve, the international war on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, reveals the extent of the punishment being dealt out to ISIS. For 2017, the BBC estimates that for the 99 days to 9 April, at least 216 bombs and missiles have been dropped/launched by the RAF.

Paveway IV was the most commonly used weapon. At least 129 of the guided bombs have been dropped on ISIS in 2017. 37 Hellfire missiles and 20 Brimstone missiles were also used, with another 30 unspecified.

According to the Mirror, more than 16 RAF Tornado and Typhoon aircraft are operating out of RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, with additional surveillance aircraft.

Meet the Bombs

Paveway IV

The £22,000 Paveway IV is a precision laser-guided bomb made by Raytheon UK. The bomb entered service in 2008 and was first used during Operation Herrick in Afghanistan, then Operation Ellamy in Libya, before its current use in Operation Shader. The 500 lb (230 kg) bomb is designed for greater penetration than its predecessor, but can also be set to air burst.


Weighing just over 100 lb (45 kg), MBDA’s Brimstone missiles cost £105,000 per unit. The missile is specially designed for armour-piercing using a Tandem Shaped Charge, making it an ideal tank-buster. Brimstone entered service with the RAF in 2005, seeing use in Op Telic, Op Herrick and Op Ellamy. An improved Brimstone 2 is already in development.


The 100 lb (45 kg) AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile costs  $110,000 a piece, but are more effective against moving targets. In Operation Shader, Hellfire missiles are air-launched from RAF Reaper drones. The great precision of the weapon has seen it being used to kill high-profile targets, such as Jihadi John in Raqqa in 2015.

£400 Million Already Spent on Paveway IV

An MOD spokesman told DefenseNews that:

While unable to comment in detail about the supply of military equipment and services to Saudi Arabia, we can confirm that the £400 million (U.S. $500 million) in Paveway IV orders since 2015 does not include weapons for Saudi Arabia.

The MOD has also placed an order for more Brimstone 2 and Hellfire missiles.

Estimated Effects of RAF Operation Shader Airstrikes

As yet no casualty lists for 2017 have been released or estimated, but figures show that for the period from December 2015 to December 2016, an estimated 649 Islamic State extremist have been killed and another 123 wounded, according to the Mirror.

However, the Sun newspaper claims that 1,864 ISIS fighters were killed and 182 wounded in 2016.

In 2016, the US dropped 12,192 bombs in Syria and 12,095 in Iraq.

Photo: A Tornado GR4 with 41 Squadron Royal Air Force soars over the south coast of England in 2012. 41 Squadron was formed in 1916 and is based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. Photograph by SAC Graham Taylor (Crown Copyright, 2012).

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