RAF Tornado Op SHADER Paveway IV strike against ISIS target in Syria (Crown Copyright, 2019)[880]

RAF Tornados’ Last Mission Bombing ISIS

Before Retiring from Service RAF Tornados Joined Typhoons and Reaper Drones on Operation SHADER Over Hajin

A combination of Typhoon and Tornado jets, as well as Reaper drones, supported Syrian Democratic Forces on the ground, in the campaign against the Islamic State’s last major territory, Hajin, Syria, seeing 10 successful air strikes in 19 days over the Christmas period. Five of those strikes were carried out by RAF Tornados before the aircraft were flown back to the UK.

British RAF aircraft also assisted the Iraqi security forces, helping to prevent Islamic State terrorists from regaining a foothold in the country.

The MOD recently released details of RAF activities on Operation SHADER over the period 19 December 2018 to 6 January 2019. Royal Air Force aircraft have continued to fly daily armed reconnaissance missions over eastern Syria in support of the Syrian Democratic Forces offensive against the Islamic State around Hajin, as well as lending assistance when requested by the Iraqi security forces to prevent the terrorists from regaining a foothold within the country.

Tornados Support SDF Advance in Hajin Area

With the SDF pushing south-east from Hajin, Tornado GR4s provided close air support on Wednesday 19 December. The SDF encountered a truck-bomb concealed inside a building, and took cover whilst the Tornados dealt with the threat. A single Paveway IV guided bomb, on target, allowed the SDF to continue their advance.

Further support was rendered on Friday 21 December by a Reaper and another flight of Tornados. The Reaper’s crew successfully used a Hellfire missile against a small group of ISIS fighters as they moved across country, whilst the Tornados destroyed two workshops which were producing improvised explosive devices. The following day, a Reaper spotted Islamic terrorists manning a heavy weapon and engaged them with a Hellfire which scored a direct hit. The Reaper then provided surveillance support to a coalition air strike on an ISIS-held building nearby. Tornados were also active south-east of Hajin, conducting Paveway IV attacks which destroyed a heavy machine-gun position and two other Islamic State strong-points.

Further targets were identified on Monday 24 December, when Tornados, as ever supported by a Voyager air refuelling tanker, bombed two ISIS-held buildings in the path of the SDF advance. With the Islamic State continuing to lose ground, it was necessary to prevent them moving men and equipment, most particularly their favoured truck-bombs, along a road towards the SDF. A pair of Typhoons cratered the road with Paveway IVs on Wednesday 26 December.

The Typhoons then joined a Tornado flight in destroying three ISIS-occupied buildings: the Typhoons dealt with one target, the Tornados struck the other two. The Tornados remained on station to provide further assistance if required by the SDF and subsequently attacked a further two buildings from which Islamic State terrorists were firing. On Thursday 27 December, Typhoons bombed two more buildings held by ISIS, whilst Tornados hit a third.

RAF Over Iraq

Coalition aircraft remain available to support the Iraqi security forces as and when required, to ensure Iraq remains free of the Islamic State. Intelligence established that a terrorist stockpile of weapons was concealed deep in the western deserts of Anbar province. Two Tornados were tasked with its destruction on Friday 28 December. This was accomplished using a pair of Paveway IVs.

Meanwhile, a number of Islamic State fighters were tracked to tunnels hidden beneath an extensive palm grove some twenty miles north of Baghdad. Typhoons carried out a successful attack, again with two Paveway IVs, destroying the tunnels and the Islamic State fighters hiding within.

Reaper Overwatch for SDF

Operations continued south-east of Hajin on New Year’s Day, with a Reaper providing overwatch for the SDF. Surveillance support was given to a coalition air strike on an ISIS strong-point, and the Reaper’s crew then tracked terrorists as they attempted to take up new positions, engaging them with a Hellfire missile.

With the SDF pushing further to the south and east of Hajin, along the road to Abu Kamal, a Reaper again flew overwatch for them on Sunday 6 January. The Reaper tracked an ISIS group to a compound some miles north of Abu Kamal, and provided targeting support to coalition fast jets as they subsequently delivered an attack. Two Islamic State fighters attempted to take up a new position after the compound was bombed. Still overhead, the Reaper engaged the target using a Hellfire missile.

Tornado’s Final Strike

The MOD has also released strike footage taken on the Saturday 19 January 2019. The footage shows RAF Tornados destroying an Islamic State strong-point and a sniper position north-east of Abu Kamal in Syria. Click here to see the Tornado air strike footage.

The Tornados of 9 and 31 Squadrons were part of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing flying out of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

Various MOD sources.

Image: enhanced screen shot from MOD film footage showing an RAF Tornado-launched air strike against an Islamic State target in Syria on 19 january 2019 (Crown Copyright, 2019).