Operation SHADER explained: Daesh’s demise

Operation SHADER explained: Daesh’s demise

From striking Islamic State targets from the air over Syria to teaching skills and drills to the Iraqi forces, the UK Armed Forces have contributed to the Global Coalition for six years

The global terrorist group Daesh previously took advantage of regional instability and political upheaval to control areas of Syria and Iraq roughly the size of the UK.

Daesh poses a threat to UK national security as it seeks to expand its terror network, using propaganda to radicalise and recruit citizens from the UK and around the world. That’s why the UK Armed Forces work day and night overseas to help keep Britain safe.

The UK Armed Forces’ latest mission in the Middle East has seen them work alongside 80 other nations to help provide safe and stable communities for the Iraqi people to live and work in.

Op SHADER — Air Element

Surveillance and airstrike sorties as part of the Global Coalition led by the Royal Air Force.

Operation SHADER began six years ago on 9 August 2014, when the Royal Air Force began a series of humanitarian air aid drops onto Mount Sinjar in Northern Iraq.

The air drops were ordered following the genocide of the Yazidi people and other ethnic minorities by Daesh in Northern Iraq, which had led to them fleeing onto the mountainside to escape Daesh. Following the conclusion of the aid drops, the operation quickly changed to become the UK element in the US-led coalition that began the campaign to destroy Daesh.

UK Aid being loaded onto a RAF C-130 to be dropped into the Mount Sinjar area of Iraq.

The RAF C-130s carried out seven successful aid drops and delivered vital water, shelter and supplies to the Yazidi people trapped on the mountain.

One of the aircrew that carried out the air drops was Wing Commander Calvin Bailey, who back then was a Squadron Leader.

Now the Commanding Officer of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing deployed on Op SHADER in 2020, he reflected on the operations of 2014:

“It was emotional, and still is emotional. It gives a great sense of pride that we live in a country that chooses to go and help in a situation like that. It gives great legitimacy to your underlying reasons for service.”

Following the aid drops, the RAF was tasked to change focus to surveillance, an undertaking that saw the RC-135 Rivet Joint deployed on its first ever operational sortie in 2014.

Left: RAF Rivet Joint. Centre: RAF Sentinel. Right: RAF E-3D Sentry

Simultaneously, Tornado GR4’s, Reaper, Sentinel and E-3D Sentries were also in action across the area of operations. Intelligence gathered resulted in the first airstrike taking place on 30 September 2014.

Based out of Cyprus, the Royal Air Force continues to survey and strike targets in Iraq and Syria as part of the Global Coalition under the banner of Op SHADER.

Based out of Cyprus, the Royal Air Force continue to surveil and strike targets in Iraq and Syria as part of the Global Coalition under the banner of Op SHADER (A).

Six years later and many of the aircraft operating on Op Shader have changed, but the objective of defeating Daesh and restoring peace and stability in the region remains.

One of the most notable changes has seen the withdrawal of Tornados from RAF service and their replacement by the Typhoon aircraft.

The Typhoons are now mainly conducting surveillance taskings with occasional air strikes as targets are identified.

A RAF Typhoon refuels from a RAF Voyager
Left: A RAF Typhoon over Iraq on Op SHADER. Right: A RAF Typhoon takes off at sunset from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

Wing Commander Bailey said:

“We remain in situ at the request of the Government of Iraq but with circumstances significantly improved. The Daesh attempt to set up a so-called Caliphate has been defeated and we are now supporting the Government of Iraq to rebuild and establish security across their entire country as they fight the terrorist insurgency that Daesh is now conducting.”

“The front of any operation is the aircraft, but actually all the work and effort is from the people that are unseen. Our part today is the continued support and sustainment of those personnel actively engaged in assisting the Government of Iraq, and to provide assurance in the skies for those people who we previously came to help.”

Op SHADER — Land element

Building capability within the Iraqi security forces through mentoring and training.

No strangers to Iraq, for the last six years the UK Armed Forces have been passing on their skills and drills to the Iraqi forces.

In 2014, and in parallel to the air campaign led by the Royal Air Force, a small team of experts from the British Army were sent to Iraq to train forces there.

Since then, British troops have helped train more than 120,000 Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers and in 2020 handed over the training mission at one of their camps to the Iraqis to lead.

Ranges, identifying Improvised Explosive Devices, and lessons on patrolling skills were all on the training program for the Iraqi soldiers, but arguably the British soldiers’ biggest contribution was the gift of training the trainers.

The successful delivery of training on the outskirts of Baghdad at Camp Taji saw British soldiers not only deliver skills and drills to individual Iraqi soldiers, but also mentor their military instructors too. These Iraqi instructors are now able to take the future of their soldiers’ training into their own hands, ensuring a self-sufficient and professional force — capable of taking the fight to Daesh.

The threat to the Coalition in Iraq is very real, with some positions coming under regular Indirect Fire (IDF) attacks. Earlier this year (2020) one such attack led to the tragic death of Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon, a reserve Combat Medical Technician.y.

UK kit is loaded onto aircraft to leave Camp Taji in 2020 after handing over the training mission to the Iraqis.

Supporting Iraq from the UK: On average 13 Iraqi officers are trained in the UK each year

· 17 Iraqi Officer Cadets have passed out at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, home to the British Army Officer

· Five Iraqis have been trained at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth

· Seven senior Iraqi officers have trained at the Defence Academy in the UK

· 57 other Iraqi officers have also trained in the UK on shorter courses such as the Intelligence Directors Course

The British Army may have handed over at Camp Taji, but they are by no means leaving Iraq.

While progress has been made, the UK remains fully committed to a peaceful Iraq and the lasting defeat of Daesh, and so more than 100 UK military personnel remain there to support this goal, while the Royal Air Force continue their fight over the skies of Iraq and Syria.

Based out of Cyprus, the Royal Air Force continues to strike targets in Iraq and Syria as part of the Global Coalition under the banner of Op SHADER.

Read more about the UK Armed Forces’ work in Iraq:

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