RAF 903 Expeditionary Airwing Tornado GR4 taking off from RAF Akrotiri for missions over Iraq and Syria, Op SHADER (Crown Copyright, 2016) [880]

RAF Supporting Syrian Abu Kamal Offensive

Islamic State Fighters Targeted by Reapers, Tornados and Typhoons

Throughout September, the RAF has been flying combat missions against Islamic State fighters in support of the Syrian Democratic Forces’ offensive in the Abu Kamal area, as part of the British contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve, codenamed Operation SHADER, to destroy the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, Daesh).

The RAF flew Reapers, Typhoons and Tornados over the Abu Kamal area, using Hellfire missiles, Paveway IVs and a GBU-12 guided bomb to destroy Islamic State targets.

Supporting the Abu Kamal Offensive

A Reaper supported the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Wednesday 12 September as they mounted an offensive towards Abu Kamal, at the southern end of the one significant remaining pockets of ISIS-held territory in eastern Syria, near Hajin. Islamic State fighters were observed in action on the outskirts of a village to the east of Abu Kamal, throwing grenades and firing a machine-gun. The terrorists took cover beneath the overhang of a building, but the Reaper’s crew were able to guide a Hellfire missile very accurately to strike them.

Tornados Destroy Base for Suicide Bombers

On Friday 14 September, a building east of Abu Kamal was confirmed to be a base for Islamic State suicide bombers. A Tornado flight conducted an attack using two Paveway IVs, which demolished the building.

Reaper Patrol

Close support continued to be provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces advancing against the Islamic State around Abu Kamal. On Tuesday 18 September, a Reaper observed a large group of Islamic State fighters moving into a building very close to the SDF. A Hellfire missile was used to strike one part of the building, which successfully dealt with most of the terrorists, while a second missile eliminated a smaller group positioned outside.

The following day, a Reaper was again on station over the Abu Kamal area, and its crew conducted two successful attacks with Hellfires on Islamic State fighters several miles to the north of the town, concealed in a treeline. Meanwhile, a pair of Paveway IV-armed Typhoons bombed an ISIS command post identified just to the east of Abu Kamal.

Typhoons and Tornados Join Reaper in Combat Missions

Friday 21 September saw a Reaper, Typhoons and Tornados all in action near Abu Kamal. The Reaper used a Hellfire missile to kill a terrorist on a motorcycle in the area. Typhoons used one Paveway IV against a group of extremists whom a coalition surveillance aircraft had spotted moving in the open, then employed a further three such weapons against a long, low building occupied by other Islamic State fighters. Meanwhile, two Tornados provided close support to the SDF who had encountered two buildings held by terrorists; a highly accurate attack destroyed both positions and removed the threat.

A Reaper carried out three attacks on Islamic State positions near Abu Kamal on Sunday 23 September. Firstly, a heavy weapon was observed being fired from the upper floor of a three-storey building, but this was silenced by a Hellfire missile. A further Hellfire was used against a terrorist-held building close to an SDF position, and a GBU-12 guided bomb destroyed another such building. The latter attack resulted in a series of secondary explosions, indicating that ammunition or explosives had probably been stockpiled inside. Typhoons similarly provided close support to the SDF, eliminating another terrorist strong-point, then flew upstream to the Hajin area where they bombed a terrorist storage point.

Reaper Takes Out Islamic State Drone and Mortar Teams

On Monday 24 September, a Reaper tracked two terrorist groups as they gathered at a building north-east of Abu Kamal; another coalition surveillance aircraft confirmed that they were respectively Islamic State drone and mortar teams. A Hellfire missile eliminated most of the group, and a second missile took out the remainder who had attempted to hide in a nearby orchard. Later, the Reaper’s crew came to the assistance of the SDF who had come under fire from an ISIS-held building. Despite the proximity of the SDF, a GBU-12 guided bomb was successfully employed to eliminate the threat. Again, in the Abu Kamal area, a flight of Typhoons destroyed two more buildings held by the Islamic State with Paveway IVs, whilst Tornados attacked a group of terrorists concealed in a treeline.

Further close support was provided to the SDF on Tuesday 25 September, when a Reaper caught an Islamic State mortar in the act of firing, north of Abu Kamal. The mortar team was hit with a GBU-12. The next day, Typhoons used a single Paveway IV to demolish an Islamic State strong-point north-east of the town. On Thursday 27 September, a Reaper used a single Hellfire missile to attack a building north-east of Abu Kamal, which had been identified as containing explosives stockpiled by the Islamic State. Large secondary blasts followed the missile’s impact, confirming the destruction of the explosives inside.

SDF Pinned Down By Islamic State Sniper

Tornados and Typhoons gave further assistance to the SDF on Saturday 29 September after an Islamic State sniper opened fire on them from the upper storey of an abandoned school, but the Typhoons used a Paveway IV with great precision, destroying the floor from which the fire had been coming, but causing as little damage as possible to the remainder of the former school. The Typhoons then conducted a second attack to destroy a cache of weapons hidden in woodland. Meanwhile, the Tornados bombed a building occupied by a number of terrorists.

A Reaper’s crew tracked an armoured truck as it drove at speed north-east of Abu Kamal on Sunday 30 September; a Hellfire missile scored a direct hit on the vehicle, destroying it. Typhoons struck a building occupied by Islamic State fighters on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, just across the river from Abu Kamal.

Source: MOD

Image: Image of a Tornado GR4 from 903 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), based out of Royal Air Force Akrotiri, Cyprus, seen here loaded with Storm Shadow cruise missiles, as it leaves for an operational sortie over Iraq and Syria – 903 EAW is part of the international coalition committed to ridding the world of the Islamic State (Crown Copyright, 2016).