Video: RAF gun camera footage of yesterday’s Brimstone attack on the ISIS truck.
The RAF has made its first attack on ISIS ground forces in Iraq, dropping a single laser guided bomb on a “heavy weapon position” and using an anti-tank missile to take out a pickup truck in support of Kurdish fighters in North-West Iraq yesterday.
The “armed reconnaissance mission” which consisted of two of RAF Akrotiri’s six Tornado fighter-bombers, presumably with the support of an aerial refuelling tanker, was tasked to support Kurdish troops who had come under fire from ISIS forces. The RAF in a press release this morning said: “On arriving overhead, the RAF patrol, using the Litening III targeting pod, identified an ISIL heavy weapon position which was engaging Kurdish ground forces.
“One Paveway IV guided bomb was used to attack the ISIL position”.
Paveway IV bombs are the latest generation of targeted munitions used by the Royal Air Force and as well as the Tornado and Eurofighter aircraft, will also be fitted to F-35 Lightning II fighters when they enter service. Costing some £60,000 each, they are expensive but less than half the price of the other ground attack weapon carried by the patrolling Tornado, the Brimstone missile.
Developed for the RAF and since exported to Saudi Arabia, the Brimstone is an advanced anti-tank missile specifically designed for taking out modern armoured targets using a comparatively low-powered but highly focussed explosive warhead to reduce collateral damage in built up urban areas. Despite that, this GPS-guided weapon was chosen by the RAF for their strike yesterday against a pickup truck in an open area, at the cost of around £150,000 to the British taxpayer for the bomb alone. Operational reasons for using such a sophisticated weapon may include a close engagement with Kurdish fighters necessitating a surgical strike to prevent collateral damage, but the RAF has not released those details.
These figures don’t include the cost of deployment, fuel and crew, but do highlight the high price of using computerised, remote ‘smart’ weapons to wage asymmetric war against unsophisticated opponents using cheap, hastily converted civilian vehicles as gun carriers. The Daily Mail reports the United States already spends up to $10 million a day in airstrikes against ISIS, and this is a figure that’s likely to increase if the campaign intensifies.
ISIS militants have taken advantage of the power vacuum in Syria to establish an Islamic caliphate across the Levant into Iraq that has appalled the civilised world with it’s predilection to brutal violence, the murder of prisoners, and systematic rape of children as a reward for it’s fighters.
Western leaders have vowed to strike the state in support of local resistance forces including the Free Syrian Army and Kurdish fighters, with nations such at the United States, France and the United Kingdom launching airstrikes and others such as Germany providing arms and training to forces on the ground.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to launch airstrikes against ISIS has proved popular with the British public, and a poll published yesterday has shown preference for Cameron to deal with the ISIS situation over his Labour rival Ed Miliband. The Conservative party has taken care to show it is tough on terrorism both at home and abroad during its conference this week, and has announced measures to gag UK extremists using so-called ‘Extremist ASBOs’.
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