London, England—The Royal Air Force’s campaign against ISIS is coming to an end. Operation Shader, which began in 2014, is set to conclude next year, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). First to depart will be the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon jets and GR4 Tornado fighter-bombers.
RAF manned and unmanned planes have conducted around 1600 airstrikes and dropped more than 3500 bombs and missiles in the last three years. British pilots have focused on ISIS’s weapon depots, trucks and militants. Their preferred weapons of choice have been the Paveway IV laser-guided bomb, and the Hellfire and Brimstone missiles. The number of bombs released on ISIS foreheads makes Operation Shader that largest RAF campaign since World War Two, even surpassing the Falklands war and the recent Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.
“That is not to say it is over, that is not to say there won’t be some hard fighting and some slightly difficult fighting perhaps to come,” said Air Commodore Johnny Stringer, the man behind Britain’s air war against the jihadists.
And so, the RAF’s Sentinel R-1 surveillance airplanes and Reaper drones won’t be leaving just yet. These valuable intelligence-gathering assets will stay behind to ensure that an ISIS insurgency or even a comeback doesn’t happen. “We will still need an element of manned fast-jet strike but I’m hopeful that we may see the ability to draw down elements of that final bit because the tempo of our operations is going to reduce as Daesh are beaten in Iraq and in Syria,” added Air Commodore Stringer.
Britain’s air contribution to the conflict currently amounts to 14 jets and 10 drones, without counting the surveillance, transport and refueling planes. While the U.S. planes have lifted from adjacent allied countries and Navy aircraft carriers sailing in the Mediterranean and Gulf, British planes have used RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. After the US, Britain is the second largest partner in the coalition against ISIS.
ISIS has lost more than 90% of the territory it once held under a grip of perverted terror. Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria–two major ISIS strongholds that were only recently liberated.
Image courtesy of AP Images.