Following the liberation by the Syrian Democratic Forces of the last territory held by Daesh or ISIS in Syria, Royal Air Force aircraft have continued to fly daily armed reconnaissance missions ready to support both the SDF and the Iraqi security forces to frustrate any attempts by the terrorists to re-establish a presence in either country.
Although the liberation by the Syrian Democratic Forces of Baghuz Fawqani in March 2019 deprived Daesh of the last remaining territory held by them in Syria and Iraq, constant vigilance has been maintained to ensure that the terrorists are unable to regain a foothold. To this end, Royal Air Force and other coalition aircraft have flown daily missions to support partner forces on the ground. On Sunday 19 May, a pair of RAF Typhoon FGR4s, based at RAF Akrotiri, were tasked to assist the Iraqi security forces with the destruction of a tunnel wherein a group of Daesh were reported to have established themselves. Our aircraft carefully checked the area, in the hills to the south-west of Mosul, for any signs of civilian activity that could be placed at risk, before conducting a precision attack with a pair of Paveway IV guided bombs which successfully destroyed the entrance to the tunnel.
A further such attack in support of the Iraqi security forces was delivered by Typhoons on Thursday 13 June. A small group of Daesh terrorists had been tracked to an area of marshland some 27 miles south-west of Kirkuk. A single Paveway IV was released by our aircraft, and, despite the need to target them hidden in a thick bed of reeds, was reported to have successfully dealt with the terrorists.
A detachment of F-35B Lightnings from RAF Marham has been forward-based at RAF Akrotiri since late May to develop the capabilities of this formidable new, fifth generation combat aircraft. Since their training at Akrotiri had exceeded expectations, it was decided that, to validate and advance yet further this work, it would be appropriate for the Lightnings to undertake a limited number of operational sorties over Iraq and Syria alongside the Typhoons engaged in combatting Daesh on Operation Shader. The first RAF Lightning operational sorties were therefore flown on Sunday 16 June – two aircraft conducted a patrol over Syria – and further such missions have subsequently been flown.