JAN 23, 2018 [UK Ministry of Defence Report] – Royal Air Force aircraft have continued to support operations by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to liberate the Euphrates valley in eastern Syria from the brutality of Daesh. A Reaper remotely piloted aircraft patrolled north of Abu Kamal on Monday 15 January. An armoured truck had been spotted parked on a main road, ahead of the SDF advance, and was assessed to be a probable lorry-bomb. The Reaper’s crew used a Hellfire missile to attack the vehicle and safely eliminate any threat it might pose; the very large explosion that resulted confirmed that it could indeed have posed a very dangerous risk to the SDF and the local civilian population. Later in the patrol, terrorists were spotted interacting with a truck, well concealed under trees. A second Hellfire missile was fired, and guided with great precision through the treeline to score a direct hit. Multiple secondary explosions followed as the truck’s cargo detonated.
The Syrian Democratic Forces encountered a Daesh-held building as they cleared a village on the east bank of the Euphrates, north-west of Hajin, on Wednesday 17 January. A mixed pair of a Tornado GR4 and a Typhoon FGR4 came to their assistance and, despite the close proximity of the SDF to the target, successfully demolished the building with a Paveway IV guided bomb. Our aircraft then inflicted further casualties on the terrorists in the area, using Brimstone missiles to strike two groups of extremists manoeuvring on foot.
SDF operations north of Abu Kamal on Thursday 18 January were supported by two RAF Reapers as well as other coalition aircraft. One of our Reapers used a Hellfire to knock out an armed truck that was firing on the SDF, then pursued a second such vehicle as it drove away and destroyed it with another Hellfire. A third Hellfire was used in a successful attack on a Daesh-held building. The second Reaper also conducted three attacks; a Hellfire missile silenced a mortar spotted firing from beneath some trees, and a further missile and a GBU-12 guided bomb took care of two truck-bombs. As well as conducting their own attacks, the Reapers also provided targeting and surveillance support to seven attacks by coalition aircraft, against a range of terrorist positions, including two engineering vehicles being used by Daesh, and a large group of terrorists mounted on motorcycles, whom our aircraft tracked to a compound, where they were successfully targeted by a fast jet.
The Euphrates valley was blanketed by cloud on Friday 19 January, but two RAF flights of Typhoons and Tornados nevertheless continued to provide effective air support to the SDF. Six attacks were delivered with Paveway IVs through the cloud onto terrorist positions with which the SDF were engaged in close combat; all six Daesh positions were reported by the SDF to have been destroyed, along with a truck-bomb. The following day, a Reaper used a GBU-12 guided bomb to demolish a Daesh-held building north-west of Abu Kamal, and provided targeting and surveillance support to four coalition air strikes, including one which destroyed a munitions stockpile detected when the Reaper spotted terrorists delivering weapons to the building. A flight of Typhoons were also active over the area, and they used a Paveway to destroy a further Daesh-held building.
On Sunday 21 January, a Reaper identified a group of extremists setting up a probable ambush position in and around a small building in the Euphrates valley. A Hellfire missile scored a direct hit, killing the terrorists and causing a large secondary explosion, likely from weapons concealed inside the building. The Reaper then conducted a further two Hellfire attacks on terrorist positions, and supported a successful coalition air strike.
Timeline summary of UK RAF air strikes:
- Monday, Jan 15 – a Reaper destroyed a lorry-bomb and a terrorist truck in eastern Syria.
- Wednesday, Jan 17 – a mixed Tornado/Typhoon flight attacked three groups of terrorists in eastern Syria.
- Thursday, Jan 18 – two Reapers struck six terrorist targets, including two armed trucks, two lorry-bombs, a mortar and a Daesh-held building, in eastern Syria.
- Friday, Jan 19 – Typhoons and Tornados struck six terrorist positions and a truck-bomb in eastern Syria.
- Saturday, Jan 20 – a Reaper destroyed a Daesh-held building in eastern Syria, whilst Typhoons demolished a second.
- Sunday, Jan 21 – a Reaper attacked three terrorist targets in eastern Syria, including a group of extremists spotted setting up a potential ambush position.