Tuesday, March 29, 2016

UK outlines extent of Reaper UAV strikes in Iraq and Syria

The UK revealed on 21 March the extent of airstrikes being conducted against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by Royal Air Force (RAF) General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Answering a question in parliament on the number of UAV strikes carried out in Iraq and Syria over the previous 19-and-a-half months, armed forces minister Penny Mordaunt said that there were 200 such strikes in Iraq and 13 in Syria between 1 September 2014 and 15 March 2016.

In February, the same minister disclosed that between 1 February 2015 and 1 February 2016 there had been 435 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions over Syria and 906 over Iraq; 64 combat (strike) missions over Syria and 699 over Iraq; and 484 'other' (passenger and cargo transport) missions over Iraq and none over Syria. Mordaunt added that most of those aircraft operating in Syrian airspace had traversed Iraqi airspace as well, presumably as they flew from their forward operating bases to their mission areas. This statement revealed that, as the only UK strike platform needing to overfly Iraq in order to reach Syria (10 are based in Kuwait, reportedly), the Reaper was responsible for most reconnaissance and strike sorties over Syria.

When set against these numbers and removing ISR missions from the equation, the latest announcement reveals that the Reaper has conducted approximately 29% of the UK's strikes in Iraq and 20% of those in Syria (notwithstanding the slight difference in the time periods being compared). The remaining 71% and 80% respectively will have been flown by RAF Panavia Tornado GR4 and Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 manned combat aircraft operating out of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

Separately, Mordaunt disclosed on 11 March that between 24 January 2016 and 9 March 2016 the UK has expended 14 MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface missiles in both Iraq and Syria (carried by the Tornado); seven Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-surface missiles in Iraq and eight in Syria (Reaper); and 166 Raytheon Paveway IV precision-guided bombs in Iraq and 21 in Syria (Reaper, Typhoon, and Tornado).


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