On Friday 17 February, a pair of Tornado GR4s from RAF Akrotiri conducted an armed reconnaissance patrol over northern Iraq. They were directed towards a terrorist strongpoint which had been identified some 17 miles west of Kirkuk. Having carefully checked the surrounding area for any indication of civilians who might be placed at risk, the Tornados released a single Paveway IV guided bomb which destroyed the target with a direct hit.
With the launch on Sunday 19 February of the Iraqi offensive to liberate western Mosul, Tornados formed part of the coalition air support. Our aircraft conducted two attacks during the course of their mission: a Paveway IV was used to strike a Daesh mortar position just to the south of Mosul, then a second Paveway destroyed another mortar sited to the north-west of the city – although the mortar itself was not visible to the aircrew, the impact of the Paveway caused a sizeable secondary explosion, indicating that the ammunition supply had been hit.
Other RAF aircraft carried out intensive reconnaissance patrols over both Syria and Iraq during this period, and further attacks were delivered by both Tornados and Typhoons on Tuesday 21 February.
Two Typhoon FGR4s were tasked with the mission of denying Daesh the use of a causeway across the Little Zab river, a number of miles west of Kirkuk. Paveway IV guided bombs demolished not only the causeway, but also heavy machine-gun and mortar positions guarding it.
The Tornados continued their operations to support the Iraqi forces advancing on western Mosul. A Daesh artillery piece, sited some 15 miles north-west of the city, opened fire on Iraqi troops. Iraqi artillery fire in return forced the terrorists manning the gun to seek shelter, and before they were able to re-crew the weapon, the Tornado flight arrived on the scene and destroyed it with a direct hit from a Paveway IV. The ammunition stockpile was also set on fire.
The Tornados then patrolled over west Mosul itself, and used a second Paveway IV to collapse a tunnel entrance on the city’s southern outskirts.