Below is an extract from a recent MoD update on RAF operations over Iraq;
25 January: a Reaper was once again on patrol over northern Iraq on Sunday, providing top cover to the peshmerga as they consolidated their latest successful offensive against ISIL. One Hellfire was used to attack an armoured personnel carrier, then a further 2 missiles were used against 2 ISIL positions near by.
23 January: another Reaper flew on Friday morning to support the Iraqi army in the west of the country and observed ISIL fighters loading rockets into a truck. The vehicle was kept under close observation and then was successfully attacked with a Hellfire. A further attack was then conducted as the terrorists attempted to salvage equipment from the damaged truck.
22 January: an RAF Reaper, patrolling over northern Iraq, assisted Kurdish peshmerga who were under fire from a group of terrorists with a heavily armed pick-up truck. The vehicle was destroyed by a Hellfire missile.
21 January: early on Wednesday, a pair of Tornado GR4s flew in support of Kurdish troops, a Brimstone missile struck a heavily-armed ISIL truck and a Paveway IV guided bomb was used to target a terrorist observation post. Initial reports indicate both attacks were a success. On Wednesday evening, a Reaper provided further surveillance for the peshmerga, and in a series of engagements used Hellfires to attack a number terrorist vehicles and a fighting position.
20 January: RAF aircraft have been on hand to assist the latest Kurdish offensive operation; a Reaper was able to conduct a successful precision attack with a Hellfire missile on a terrorist group.
19 January: RAF Tornado GR4s were active in the early hours of Monday morning, flying armed reconnaissance in western Iraq, close to the Syrian border. An armoured personnel carrier was identified near Al Qaim and hit by a Brimstone missile. Continuing their patrol to the north east, the GR4s caught another group of ISIL vehicles attacked with a Paveway IV bomb. Meanwhile, British Army advisers continue to provide training and mentoring to the Iraqi security forces, particularly the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq.
18 January: Reapers continued to provide support to the Iraqi army on Sunday – in the afternoon a Hellfire was used to strike a heavy machine-gun position that threatened Iraqi soldiers nearby, then during the night a further 3 missiles were used to target a large terrorist group as they began an attack on an Iraqi position.
16 January: Friday saw another Tornado patrol supporting the Iraqi army in its operations near Bayji. Three positions were identified and were struck simultaneously with Paveways. A fourth Paveway was used shortly afterwards against a further ISIL position near by. That evening, an RAF Reaper, operating elsewhere in Iraq, identified another group of terrorists who had just attacked an Iraqi unit and conducted 2 successful attacks with Hellfire missiles.
13 January: a pair of Tornado GR4s flew a reconnaissance mission ahead of Kurdish forces as they continued to strengthen security in the area east of Mount Sinjar, from which ISIL – or Da’ish as they are known to the Iraqi and Syrian people they abuse – was driven out in December. The aircraft spotted the terrorists constructing a fortified position; a Paveway IV precision guided bomb successfully destroyed the vehicle they were using.
9 January: late at night, 2 RAF Tornado GR4s, on an armed reconnaissance mission in northern Iraq, were summoned to assist the Kurdish peshmerga. Da’ish terrorists, who have lost a significant amount of territory to the peshmerga recently, were attempting to mount a local attack on a Kurdish unit. The GR4s delivered 4 precision strikes using Paveway IV guided bombs to disrupt the attack.
8 January: in the evening a Reaper remotely piloted air system (RPAS) worked in close conjunction with other coalition aircraft to provide air support to Iraqi troops in Anbar province, western Iraq. The RAF Reaper provided targeting assistance to the fast jets in strikes against ISIL positions, and conducted a successful attack using its own Hellfire missiles.
6 January: At the request of the Iraqi government, British forces took further action against ISIL terrorist targets.
5 January: Reaper and Tornado missions were also flown in the morning. Tornados again patrolled the Al Qaim area, where they destroyed an ISIL excavator vehicle, used to construct fortified positions, with a Brimstone, while a Reaper, scouting ahead of Iraqi troops, spotted an armoured vehicle being moved by ISIL on a heavy equipment transporter. A Hellfire missile scored a direct hit on the armoured vehicle, another Hellfire destroyed the transporter itself, and a third missile struck an ISIL position nearby.
4 January: an RAF Reaper, working in support of Iraqi army units, identified an ISIL vehicle and engaged it with a Hellfire missile. Shortly afterwards, the Reaper discovered an ISIL position close by, and attacked this with another Hellfire.
2 January: in the early hours a RAF Tornado GR4 armed reconnaissance patrol located an ISIL armoured personnel carrier to the east of Al Qaim, and conducted a successful strike with a Brimstone missile. Later in the day, a coalition surveillance aircraft observed ISIL positions concealed within woods north-west of Ramadi and another Tornado mounted an attack with 2 Paveway IV precision guided bombs.
Just shy of a months worth of operations and the RAF has expended;
- Hellfire; 20, from Reaper
- Brimstone; 5, from Tornado
- Paveway IV; 12, from Tornado
The target descriptions are equally interesting, a truck, a heavy machine gun position, an armoured personnel carrier and excavator. These targets fall definitely into the ‘tactical’ column rather than attacking ‘strategic’ targets.
What conclusions can we draw (if any) from the number of targets, types of target, launch platform and weapons expended?
- Reaper is doing just as much of the heavy lifting as Tornado without the massive logistic effort involved with refuelling Tornado?
- Paveway IV seems to be the referred option for those sorties flown by Tornado?
- How many Reapers can we buy for a single F35?
- The effect delivered (destroying an excavator or trucks in singles) are insignificant compared to the cost?
- Air power used in this manner satisfies the ‘something must be done’ brigade but not much else?
- Any others, none, the opposite of the above?