News story

Update: air strikes in Iraq

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

British forces have continued to conduct air operations to assist the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIL.

A Royal Air Force Reaper RPAS [Picture: Sergeant Ross Tilly RAF, Crown copyright]
A Royal Air Force Reaper RPAS

Latest update

Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft have provided further assistance to Iraqi forces fighting ISIL, flying daily armed reconnaissance missions and conducting a series of successful air strikes on terrorist groups.

On Wednesday 6 May, an RAF Reaper flew overwatch for advancing Iraqi troops in Anbar province. The Reaper’s crew used the aircraft’s advanced surveillance systems to identify a heavy machine-gun position, which was successfully attacked with a Hellfire missile. Two further ISIL positions were also struck shortly afterwards.

Thursday 7 May saw Tornado GR4s supporting Kurdish forces north of Mosul, with our aircraft destroying another terrorist heavy machine-gun position, which had opened fire on the peshmerga.

Reapers conducted further successful strikes on Wednesday 13 May – successfully attacking a large vehicle. Another Reaper was operating over northern Iraq the same day, and used Hellfires to strike ISIL fighters and an engineering vehicle.

On Thursday 14 May, Tornado GR4s on a reconnaissance mission were tasked to attack a building near Bayjii where coalition surveillance had confirmed terrorists were assembling; a Paveway IV guided bomb scored a direct hit on the target.

Other RAF aircraft contributing to the coalition air campaign include Sentry command and control platforms, Sentinel surveillance aircraft, and Voyager refuelling tankers. Hercules transport aircraft provide logistic support to the British liaison officers working with the Iraqi and coalition headquarters, as well as the military training teams which continue to assist the Iraqi forces build up their capabilities in order to fight the terrorists effectively.

Previous air strikes

3 May: Two GR4s provided direct support to Iraqi troops near Bayji and conducted a successful attack with a Paveway precision guided bomb on a concealed ISIL position. Shortly afterwards, a Reaper flying overwatch for an Iraqi unit in Anbar province was able to identify two engineering vehicles which ISIL were using to construct defensive positions – both vehicles were destroyed with Hellfire missiles.

4 May: Tornado GR4s also assisted Iraqi troops on the evening of Monday; whilst trying to evacuate wounded comrades, the soldiers came under heavy fire from terrorists positioned in two buildings. Despite the proximity of the friendly forces, careful planning and the accuracy of the Paveway system allowed the GR4s to destroy both terrorist positions and remove the threat to the troops on the ground.

6 May: GR4s provided support to the Kurdish peshmerga near Mosul, and conducted air strikes with Paveways on ISIL sniper and heavy machine-gun positions.

Other RAF aircraft flying on operations, as part of the coalition air campaign to support the Iraqi government, include: Sentry command and control aircraft; Sentinel surveillance platforms; Hercules air transports; and, in the air-to-air refuelling role so important in sustaining lengthy air patrols, a Voyager tanker.

British staff and liaison teams are embedded throughout Iraqi and coalition headquarters to help coordinate support in an effective manner, while military instructors continue to work with coalition partners in delivering training to the Iraqi and Kurdish forces; British trainers have played a prominent role to date in assisting the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq, and the UK is taking the lead in designing a country-wide programme for the coalition to provide training and equipment to help reduce the threat from the improvised explosive devices (IED) which are increasingly favoured by the terrorists as they are forced onto the defensive.

Details of previous airstrikes can be found here.

For more information see ISIL: UK government response page on GOV.UK

Published 6 October 2014
Last updated 15 May 2015 + full page history
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  50. Updated 20 October 2014
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