After a lengthy delay in responding to our FoI requests, the MOD has now provided data on UK air operations in Iraq and Syria for the second half of 2017. For our updated complete set of figures for UK air operations in Iraq and Syria since 2014 see here.
As ISIS collapses in Iraq, Syria becomes UK focus
The newly released figures show just how much the focus of UK air operations switched from Iraq to Syria during 2017. In 2016, 74% of UK armed air missions took place in Iraq with just over a quarter in Syria. In 2017 the numbers were almost the reverse, with 68% of armed missions taking place in Syria and only 32% in Iraq.
The transfer of focus from Iraq to Syria is confirmed by data on weapon launches. Comparing weapons fired by British aircraft during 2017 with 2016 we see a decrease of 52% in Iraq and an increase of 103% in Syria. The last six months of 2017 shows an even more dramatic increase in UK air strikes in Syria with a 220% rise in weapons fired there compared with the same time period in 2016. Overall the number of weapons fired by UK aircraft in 2017 declined by 35% from 1,649 in 2016 to 1,078 in 2017.
Use of Reaper Drones
The number of UK Reaper drone missions flown in 2017 increased very slightly over 2016. In line with the overall trend, the vast majority of these flights (just over 80%) took place in Syria rather than Iraq. However, the number of UK Reaper sorties launching air strikes declined, with only 64 Reaper sorties launching one or more strikes in 2017.
In 2016, a quarter of all UK Reaper missions launched a strike, in 2017 this declined to around 10%. This compares with just under a quarter of Tornado/Typhoon sorties in 2017 launching strikes. (end of excerpt)
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