Update: air strikes against Daesh

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The Royal Air Force has continued its bombardment of key Daesh targets in Syria, helping Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and coalition allies advance through Hajin, the terrorist group’s last significant territory.

Typhoon and Tornado jets struck buildings, individuals and vehicles on a daily basis throughout the start of December, supporting the SDF efforts on the ground to recapture Hajin.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

The advance through Hajin is a huge milestone and shows that Daesh are being pushed further back into the shadows. Make no mistake though, although this is another significant battle won, much hard work still lies ahead to ensure we win the war.

On Wednesday 19 December, President Trump stated that Daesh had been defeated in Syria. The White House also made it clear that this signalled neither the end of the Global Coalition against Daesh, nor the campaign against the threat they posed. The UK will continue to work with members of the coalition on achieving this, to deny Daesh territory and ensure its enduring defeat, working alongside our critical regional partners in Syria and beyond. Much remains to be done and we must not lose sight of the threat Daesh will pose, even without territory.


Friday 23 November – Tornados and Typhoons struck seven Daesh targets near Hajin, including two armed trucks and a heavy machine-gun position.

Saturday 24 November – Tornados and Typhoons hit a further six terrorist positions near Hajin.

Monday 3 December – Tornados attacked three Daesh targets north of Hajin, including an armoured bulldozer and a tunnel occupied by terrorists.

Wednesday 5 December – Typhoons bombed two terrorist positions north-west of Hajin.

Thursday 6 December – Typhoons attacked a Daesh position north-west of Hajin.

Friday 7 December – Tornados bombed a group of terrorists and their vehicles near Hajin, whilst Typhoons dealt with two defensive strongpoints.

Saturday 8 December – Typhoons struck two more Daesh positions near Hajin.

Sunday 9 December – Typhoons destroyed a terrorist-held building on the outskirts of Hajin.

Monday 10 December – a Reaper conducted three attacks on terrorists in Hajin, and provided surveillance support to four coalition air strikes, including by RAF Typhoons which struck two targets.

Tuesday 11 December – a Reaper attacked three Daesh positions in and around Hajin, including a mortar team.

Wednesday 12 December – a Reaper hit four terrorist targets in Hajin, including a truck being loaded with weapons, whilst Tornados destroyed a Daesh operating base within the town.

Thursday 13 December – Tornados and Typhoons supported the Syrian Democratic Forces clearing terrorists from Hajin, striking nine Daesh positions.

Friday 14 December – a Reaper, Tornados and Typhoons conducted ten attacks on a total of twelve targets in the area around Hajin.

Saturday 15 December – a Reaper supported a coalition airstrike and engaged four groups of Daesh near Hajin, including terrorists loading a truck, whilst Tornados destroyed a defensive position south of the town.

Sunday 16 December – Reapers and Typhoons carried out seven attacks on Daesh to the south-east of Hajin, hitting nine targets.

Monday 17 December – Typhoons delivered three attacks south-east of Hajin, which struck five Daesh-held buildings and a group of terrorists in the open.


On Friday 23 November, Syrian Democratic Forces attacking Daesh positions to the north and north-east of Hajin came into contact with several groups of terrorists in the open desert. Two Tornado GR4s and two Typhoon FGR4s provided close air support to the SDF; a blanket of cloud covered the area, but close coordination with the SDF and the precision of the Paveway IV bombs allowed our aircraft to conduct strikes through the cloud on seven Daesh targets, all successful, despite the often close proximity of the SDF to the enemy. Two Daesh armed trucks and a heavy machine-gun position were amongst the targets reported by the SDF to have been hit. Similar close support was provided on Saturday 24 November, when the continuing difficult weather conditions did not prevent a flight of Typhoons from striking five groups of terrorists caught in the open, and a Tornado reconnaissance mission hitting a sixth.

No further targets required prosecution by RAF aircraft until Monday 3 December, when the SDF encountered Daesh positions a couple of miles to the north of Hajin. A pair of Tornados supported them, delivering two attacks in rapid succession. The first attack simultaneously targeted an armoured bulldozer and a group of Daesh in the open; although dropped through cloud, both Paveways were reported by the SDF to have struck their targets accurately. The same was true of the Paveway IV released shortly afterwards in the second attack, against a tunnel in which a number of terrorists were concealed.

On Wednesday 5 December, Typhoons supported an SDF advance north-west of Hajin. The SDF came into contact with two Daesh positions, but heavy cloud gave the terrorists no protection and both targets were successfully struck with Paveway IVs. Typhoons conducted a further strike in the same area the following day, accounting for a further terrorist position.

A Tornado flight was directed onto a group of terrorists, along with a number of vehicles, north-west of Hajin, on Friday 7 December. Once again, persistent cloud complicated the attack, but a Paveway IV was guided accurately onto the group and their vehicles. North of Hajin, the SDF reported being in a firefight with two Daesh defensive positions; Typhoons worked closely with the SDF to eliminate the threat from both targets, hitting them with Paveways. Two more Daesh positions nearby were bombed by Typhoons on Saturday 8 December. On Sunday 9 December, Typhoons used a single Paveway IV to destroy a Daesh-held building on the northern outskirts of Hajin.

With the SDF having now advanced into Hajin itself, a Reaper provided prolonged close air support to them on Monday 10 December. Its crew conducted three attacks with the Reaper’s Hellfire missiles against Daesh terrorists engaged in often close-quarters combat with the SDF, and provided surveillance support to four attacks by other coalition aircraft. These included attacks by a pair of RAF Typhoons which destroyed two Daesh strongpoints. Another Reaper continued to support the SDF on Tuesday 11 December; its crew identified a group of Daesh with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, firing at the SDF, and engaged them with a Hellfire missile. The Reaper’s crew then observed another group of terrorists repositioning after a firefight with the SDF, and caught them in the open with a second Hellfire. Meanwhile, a coalition surveillance aircraft had identified a Daesh mortar team operating under cover of trees, and was able to direct the Reaper onto this target, which was successfully attacked with a GBU-12 guided bomb.

Reaper support to the SDF continued into Wednesday 12 December. Several terrorists were spotted in a treeline, and successfully targeted with a GBU-12. The Reaper’s crew then observed extremists loading a truck with weapons and ammunition; they and the vehicle were struck with a Hellfire missile. Two more Hellfire attacks were carried out during the patrol, one hitting a group of terrorists firing at the SDF, the other striking a number of terrorists as they held a meeting behind the front line. Tornados were also active over Hajin, as the SDF advanced ever further into the town, and they carried out a successful attack with three Paveway IVs against a Daesh operating base.

Tornado and Typhoon flights provided close air support to the SDF as they fought to clear Daesh from areas of eastern and southern Hajin on Thursday 13 December. Very close coordination was required between our aircraft and the SDF since the latter were engaged in close-range combat with the terrorists; two attacks by the Typhoons accounted for five Daesh defensive positions, whilst three attacks by the Tornados dealt with a further four terrorist strongpoints.

On Friday 14 December, with the main town of Hajin reported to be largely liberated, a Reaper supported the SDF as they consolidated their control. Its crew conducted two successful attacks with Hellfire missiles against groups of terrorists observed south of the town. To the south-east, Tornados meanwhile assisted the SDF as they advanced down the main road towards Abu Kamal; Paveway IVs were used to eliminated a Daesh sniper team and a strongpoint, as well as cratering a road to prevent the terrorists moving up truck-bombs to attack a newly liberated area. Typhoons also provided close air support to the SDF, conducting attacks which struck six Daesh strongpoints, all of which had been firing on the SDF, as well as an armoured ZSU-23-4 anti-aircraft vehicle.

The SDF continued to push south-east from Hajin on Saturday 15 December: a Reaper supported a coalition airstrike, then employed Hellfire missiles to engage three groups of terrorists, including one group loading weapons and equipment onto a truck. A GBU-12 guided bomb was also used to target terrorists who were sniping at the SDF from a building. Tornados also patrolled the area, and bombed a Daesh position south of Hajin. The following day, a Reaper spotted a large group of extremists advancing towards the SDF. The Reaper helped disrupt this attempted attack with a series of three Hellfire and one GBU-12 engagements – among the targets struck was a light machine-gun team firing on the SDF – and also provided surveillance support to other coalition aircraft. A second Reaper worked with a pair of Typhoons over a nearby area; the Reaper struck a number of Daesh with a Hellfire, whilst the Typhoons conducted two attacks, hitting four Daesh-held buildings.

Typhoons conducted further attacks south-east of Hajin on Monday 17 December. The SDF advance ran into a series of Daesh defensive positions, but in the course of three separate Paveway IV attacks, the Typhoons were able to strike accurately through heavy cloud to hit five Daesh-held buildings, as well as a group of terrorists caught in the open. In each case, the weapons had to be delivered with great care and precision given the proximity of the SDF to the targets, with which they were engaged in firefights.

UK contribution to the fight against Daesh

Map of UK forces committed to Operation Shader

Map of UK forces committed to Operation Shader

Campaign against Daesh

Map of Daesh losses and gains in Iraq and Syria since September 2014

Map of Daesh losses and gains in Iraq and Syria since September 2014

Previous update

Royal Air Force aircraft have continued to provide close air support to the Syrian Democratic Forces attacking the one significant remaining area held by Daesh in eastern Syria. A Reaper remotely piloted aircraft responded to reports of a terrorist team planting improvised explosive devices north of Hajin on Monday 29 October; its crew were able to spot evidence of their activity around a large fuel tank positioned next to a road. Having checked that there were no signs of any civilians in the immediate area who might be placed at risk, the Reaper’s crew fired a single Hellfire missile, which safely destroyed the booby-trapped fuel tank.

On Sunday 4 November, a flight of Typhoon FGR4s used two Paveway IVs to crater a road near Hajin, lest Daesh attempt to move truck-bombs along it to hold up the Syrian Democratic Forces’ advance. The SDF meanwhile came up against four Daesh defensive positions in the area; these were all struck simultaneously by Paveway IVs dropped by Tornado GR4s through heavy cloud. The following day, Tornados were tasked with the destruction of a pair of buildings, to the east of Hajin, which Daesh were using as an operating base and command post. Each of the buildings received a direct hit from a Paveway IV.

Typhoons patrolled the Hajin area on Wednesday 7 November. A terrorist observation post was identified to the north-east of the town, and destroyed using a single Paveway. On Saturday 10 November, a further Typhoon patrol was directed to attack a large building in Hajin, which had been confirmed to be a Daesh logistics facility and a supposed “safe house” for their extremists. A careful check was made of the surrounding area, and then, there being no signs of civilians nearby, two Paveway IVs were guided onto the target.

A Daesh compound, which included an observation post keeping watch on the advancing SDF, was identified several miles to the north-east of Abu Kamal on Monday 12 November. A pair of Tornados attacked the compound with three Paveway IVs and successfully destroyed their targets within. Further assistance was rendered to the SDF on Thursday 15 November by a Typhoon flight, which bombed in turn three Daesh positions on the banks of the Euphrates, north-west of Hajin. The following day, a Daesh armed truck was reported to be firing to the north of Hajin; Typhoons responded, and destroyed it with a direct hit from a Paveway IV. The Typhoons were then directed to a ruined building, next to a road, within which the terrorists had been spotted hiding a truck-bomb. A second Paveway was used against this target, producing a large explosion which confirmed that the truck-bomb had been successfully detonated before any civilians or SDF had been placed in danger.

Details of previous airstrikes can be found here.

For more information see Daesh: UK government response page on GOV.UK

Revision History:


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