12 November 2015 Ministry of Defence
As Kurdish forces launch a major offensive against ISIL terrorists in northern Iraq, the Royal Air Force has been playing a full part in coalition reconnaissance and strike missions to provide effective air support to them and other Iraqi ground forces.
ISIL terrorists are under heavy pressure in both northern Iraq, where the Kurdish peshmerga continue to push them back, and in Anbar province, where Iraqi troops have isolated the ISIL forces inside Ramadi. RAF Tornado GR4 and Reaper aircraft have flown daily armed reconnaissance missions over both areas, as part of the coalition’s intensive air campaign, and have conducted precision attacks in close coordination with the Iraqi ground forces. A particular focus has been around Sinjar city, in preparation for a large Kurdish offensive which began on 12 November to drive ISIL from their remaining positions in the southern part of the town. ISIL positions in and around Sinjar have been methodically targeted by coalition aircraft ahead of the ground assault by the Kurdish security forces.
As part of these preparations for the Kurdish attack, on Thursday 5 November, Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri were able, despite bad weather, to use Paveway IV guided bombs against a pair of ISIL fortified positions near Sinjar; the Kurdish unit whom the GR4s were supporting confirmed that both terrorist positions had been destroyed.
The GR4s were again in action over northern Iraq on Sunday 8 November, destroying a further two ISIL positions near Tal Afar, which had been firing at Kurdish forces, including a rocket launch site concealed in a building.
The next day, the GR4s provided close air support to a Kurdish unit on the outskirts of Sinjar, which was in close combat with terrorists, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, who were defending a fortified compound. Despite the proximity of the Kurdish troops, our aircrew were able to conduct a carefully planned attack with two Paveway IV guided bombs that destroyed the compound.
On Wednesday 11 November, a Reaper used a GBU-12 guided bomb to destroy a terrorist-held building near Sinjar, then successfully attacked with a Hellfire missile a group of ISIL fighters as they attempted to move to a new position. Meanwhile, over Ramadi, a Tornado patrol destroyed a terrorist truck bomb with a Brimstone missile.
In addition to these reconnaissance and strike missions, other RAF aircraft continue to provide invaluable support to the coalition air campaign. Voyager air tankers refuel not just RAF but other coalition fast jets to enable them to extend their patrols over Iraq, whilst Sentinel strategic surveillance aircraft are highly valued for their ability to collect detailed intelligence on terrorist positions and movements. Hercules transport aircraft provide essential logistic support across the operational area, particularly for the British military training teams that are helping the Iraqi and Kurdish forces develop the capabilities they need to combat the terrorists ever more effectively.