RAF Tightens Noose Around ISIS
Latest Update on RAF Combat Missions On Operation SHADER
RAF enter end-game as ISIS are driven into final enclave in Syria, but continue to find ways to re-establish in Iraq. The MOD has released details of RAF operations against the Islamic State for January, today, February 25th, documenting 11 sorties over Iraq and Syria on Operation SHADER.
Coalition aircraft, including those of the RAF, are assisting the Iraqi security forces in their operations to prevent the Islamic State from re-establishing any foothold in the country. An important part of this work is the ability to destroy terrorist stockpiles of weapons and other equipment concealed in remote areas of the countryside. On Monday 7 January, two RAF Tornado GR4s delivered an attack with a pair of Paveway IV guided bombs which successfully collapsed the entrance to a cave, fifty-five miles south-east of Kirkuk, where one such stockpile was known to be stored.
In Syria, RAF aircraft continued to provide close air support to the Syrian Democratic Forces as they clear the ever-diminishing pocket of Daesh territory south of Hajin and north of Abu Kamal. Typhoon FGR4s, armed with Paveway IVs, attacked three buildings six miles north-east of Abu Kamal on Wednesday 9 January; Daesh fighters in the buildings were engaged in a close-quarters firefight with the advancing SDF. A pair of Tornados meanwhile used two Paveway IVs to deal with a truck-bomb facility in the same area. The following day, Typhoons struck a further three buildings, again being used as strong-points by Daesh. A Reaper was also patrolling the area, and its crew conducted two successful engagements with Hellfire missiles on Daesh terrorists, including a pair spotted setting up a firing position on a rooftop.
Tornados gave further assistance to the Iraqi security forces on Saturday 12 January, when they were asked to demolish the entrances to a set of tunnels discovered in the countryside to the south-west of Mosul. Each of the three entrances was successfully struck with a Paveway IV. On Sunday 13 January, Tornados were tasked with the destruction of a building five miles north-east of Abu Kamal where Daesh were known to be storing truck-bombs. The building and its contents was destroyed with a single Paveway; the Tornados then bombed a chokepoint on the nearby main road to prevent Daesh from moving any more truck-bombs into the area.
Tornados delivered similar attacks on Wednesday 16 January, bombing a further truck-bomb facility to the north-east of Abu Kamal, then cratering in two places a road leading towards the SDF locations. One of the Paveways used to crater the road caused a secondary explosion, an indication that Daesh had probably planted a booby-trap at that location. Typhoons also flew support for the SDF, striking a Daesh-held building. On Thursday 17 January, Typhoons attacked through cloud two Daesh positions which the SDF had under close observation – they confirmed both targets had been hit accurately – whilst Tornados bombed six more terrorist strong-points and firing positions.
The SDF encountered a Daesh-held building as they continued their advance on Friday 18 January, and found themselves under heavy fire. Two Typhoons were tasked to assist them, and a single Paveway IV removed the threat with a direct hit on the target. The following day, both Typhoons and Tornados flew close air support for the SDF, and delivered two attacks, striking a terrorist strong-point and eliminating a sniper position.
Tornados Last Sorties Against the Islamic State
Two Tornados and two Typhoons provided further assistance to the SDF on Thursday 24 January, as they attacked a Daesh-held area on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, a few miles to the north-east and east of Abu Kamal. The Typhoons hit a group of terrorists fighting in the open, as well as two strong-points from which fire was being directed at the SDF, whilst the Tornados hit four such positions. All of these successful attacks used Paveway IV guided bombs. On Friday 25 January, Typhoon and Tornado flights each accounted for a further Daesh-held building, and on Saturday 26 January, a pair of Tornados struck five positions, all of which had been used by terrorists engaged in firefights with the SDF.
Royal Air Force aircraft have since continued flying armed reconnaissance patrols, on hand to support the SDF if required. Thursday 31 January saw the last operational sorties by Tornado GR4s – a pair flew an uneventful patrol over Syria, recovering safely to RAF Akrotiri at 1400 GMT after a mission lasting 6½ hours.
Image: RAF Tornados from RAF Marham pictured over the Mediterranean (Crown Copyright, 2011).