RAF Tornado, RAF Marham, low level flying over Wales, by SAC Tim Laurence (Crown Copyright, 2015)

RAF Flying Fewer Sorties Against ISIS

Is Op SHADER Coming to an End?

In August, the RAF flew only three sorties against ISIS (aka Islamic State, Daesh) targets in Iraq and Syria, according to the latest Ministry of Defence release of September 3. RAF Tornados and a Reaper drone flew fewer combat missions in August than June this year, prompting speculation that ISIS is finally near total military defeat on the ground.

ISIS Denied Operational Presence in Iraq

According to the MOD, support is continuing to be given by Royal Air Force and other coalition aircraft to the Iraqi security forces as they maintain their efforts to prevent the Islamic State from re-establishing an operational presence in the country. This resulted in only two combat missions over Iraq in August.

A coalition surveillance aircraft identified a terrorist truck concealed under trees in a remote area of countryside, some 40 miles east-north-east of Tikrit. A flight of Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri, supported by a Voyager air refuelling tanker, conducted a successful attack on the vehicle using a single Paveway IV guided bomb on Wednesday 1 August.

Armed reconnaissance patrols continued to be flown daily by RAF aircraft over Syria and Iraq, and on Friday 17 August, a Daesh target was identified in northern Iraq. Terrorists had occupied a large building in the desert, a number of miles to the west-north-west of Bayji. Once a coalition surveillance aircraft had checked the surrounding area for any signs of civilian presence, a pair of Tornados conducted an attack with Paveway bombs which demolished the building and also destroyed a vehicle used by the terrorists. A further terrorist was observed on foot close by after the attack, and was struck by a Brimstone missile.

Hellfire in Syria

On Thursday 23 August, a Reaper patrolled over the Euphrates valley in Syria. A building occupied by Daesh was identified, and hit with a single Hellfire missile.

Fewer RAF Missions Flown in July and August than in June

In June 2018, the RAF flew 13 combat missions against ISIS targets. This dropped to 3 missions in July, the same number of missions flown in August.  This dramatic drop may be the result in a change of tactics or greater emphasis on other methods available. The US, for example, is continuing to provide heavy firepower for Operation Roundup, releasing imagery of howitzers in action. The numbers could also indicate that the Islamic State is finally near total military defeat in Iraq and Syria.

Source: MOD

Image: RAF Tornado, RAF Marham, low level flying over Wales, by SAC Tim Laurence (Crown Copyright, 2015).