Royal Air Force aircraft have again struck a series of ISIL terrorist targets in Iraq.
On Wednesday 11 March, Tornado GR4s, along with Sentry surveillance and Voyager tanker aircraft, provided close air support to Kurdish peshmerga engaged in eliminating ISIL strongholds in and around the city of Sinjar. An ISIL position was identified – they were using a building to fire at close range on the advancing Kurdish unit. Working closely with the Kurdish forces the Tornado crews conducted a precision attack with a Paveway IV guided bomb which successfully destroyed the position. A little later, a second stronghold was identified – a base being used by a terrorist heavy machine-gun team – this too was successfully attacked with a Paveway IV.
Later that same day, an RAF Reaper provided similar support to Iraqi military units in Anbar province. The Reaper’s crew tracked ISIL vehicles moving at speed on the open road and destroyed two with Hellfire missiles. The Reaper then worked closely to designate targets and provide surveillance support for a further five strikes by other coalition aircraft on enemy positions in the area.
Friday 13 March saw Tornado GR4s patrolling ahead of the latest peshmerga offensive near Kirkuk. An armed ISIL truck, which had been firing on the Kurds was destroyed with a Brimstone missile. The GR4s then used Paveways in successful attacks on two buildings in which terrorists had taken up position.
The following day, Tornadoes flew in support of the Iraqi army to the north-west of Haditha. An ISIL armoured personnel carrier and another armed terrorist vehicle were identified, and both were struck by Brimstone missiles.
On Sunday 15 March, a GR4 patrol was back in northern Iraq, operating over Mosul. Knowing that the Iraqi forces plan at some point to launch an offensive to retake the city from the terrorists, ISIL have been making efforts to construct defences in and around Mosul, and the GR4s were able to disrupt some of this engineering work with Paveway and Brimstone strikes. In a similar fashion, a further Tornado mission in the early hours of Monday morning conducted a Brimstone attack on a vehicle being used to create defences at Anah, near the Haditha Lake.
Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, good progress is being made by a British team of military instructors to establish a training programme to help the peshmerga with techniques to meet the threat from improvised explosive devices. These are increasingly being relied upon by ISIL as they are driven back by Iraqi forces, left as booby-traps to delay the troops advance and make it difficult for civilians to resume their normal lives. The Iraqi and Kurdish forces have already dealt with hundreds of such devices, but spreading the necessary expertise across their many units is a high priority to help save lives.