Here are some interesting details about RAF Tornados first air strike on ISIS in Syria

RAF Tornados, supported by Voyager tanker and a Reaper UAV, have extended the UK’s airstrikes to Syria.

Hours after the UK parliament approved to extend the airstrikes to include Syria, Royal Air Force Tornado attack planes, deployed to Akrotiri, Cyprus, flew their first raid on terrorist targets inside Syria, early in the morning on Dec. 3.

The Tornados, supported by a Voyager tanker and a Reaper drone, dropped their Paveway IV guided bombs against six targets on an oilfield at Omar, “one of the ISIS’s largest and most important oilfields,” according to the MoD.

The six British “Tonkas” committed to Operation Shader flew their first mission against ISIS on Sept. 27, 2014 destroying the first ISIS target, a “technical” (an armed pick-up truck), in Iraq, on Sept. 30. Since then the RAF Tornado jets, have carried out hundreds of strike (and armed reconnaissance) missions against Daesh targets.

Although the payload may vary according to the type of mission the RAF Tornado GR4s have often carried a mixed load out with a single rack of three Brimstones and two Paveway IV 226kg bombs along with the Rafael Litening III targeting pod.

The Brimstone, is a fire-and-forget anti-armour missile, optimized for use against fast-moving platforms, first fielded during 2008 after an urgent operational requirement and used on the RAF Harriers during operations over Afghanistan.

With a warhead of 9 kg and a range of 7.5 miles, the Brimstones are an extensive redevelopment of the AGM-114 Hellfire and can be used on fast jets, helicopters and UAVs. They use a millimeter wave (mmW) radar seeker with a semi-active laser (SAL) that enables final guidance to the target by either the launching platform or another plane, and are perfect to destroy a vehicle with very low collateral damage risk, and an accuracy of about 1 – 2 meters. That’s why these small guided missiles have become the RAF weapons of choice since the Air War over Libya back in 2011.

Interestingly, one of the 8 RAF Tornados deployed at Akrotiri could be regularly tracked online during its transit from Cyprus to Iraq via Israel, Jordan, accompanied by a Voyager tanker: the example #ZA556 (the only “visible” aircraft in a formation of at least two planes) can be often spotted on as it flies into Israel, then into the Jordanian airspace before turning its transponder off to enter the Iraqi airspace.

Here are some of the latest logs:

With the air strikes now covering both Iraq and Syria, the UK has reinforced its contingent at Akrotiri with 10 Tornados and 6 (+3 spares) Eurofighter Typhoon, that have arrived in Cyprus on Dec. 3. The Typhoon FGR4 multirole planes (with their squadron markings stripped off..) belong to the Tranche 2: they can drop Paveway LGBs, but neither the Brimstones nor Storm Shadows yet.

RAF Marham depart Syria

Image credit: Crown Copyright


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Why NATO continue to spend thousands of dollars for destroy once pick up for sortie? Where are the beautiful carpet bombing like Vietnam era?? I know there are different ROE but we are fighting against terrorist! If we don’t want to put boots on the ground at least attack them with force…like Russian doing

    • You cannot compare cost of mission to cost of destroyed material. You should compare it to the cost of damages ennemy could have dealt with the said material, over an unknown time frame, if it hadn’t been destroyed.

      I’ve been told last year some attack mission involving six or more planes, blowing to ashes a group of buildings, had for main motive to ensure destruction of a single phone, hidden in one of the buildings underbasement. Said phone was a burried line used by ISIS to receive and transmit orders to their HQ and other factions (what they call “center of comandment”). In that exemple, maybe up to twelve (or even more) very expensive laser guided bombs were used, from also very expensive fighters, just for a phone, that’s right.

      But with that phone line out, its operators and local commandment killed, in a whole region ISIS was suddenly in chaos, isolated, without supplies, without instructions. As a result local leaders where forced to take big risks, like using cellular phones, which was indeed fatal to a lot of them. Otherwise they had to resign to coordonate their actions and so make blind decision, putting whole columns at risk.

      That’s just one exemple, but from that one would you really compare mission cost with value of a single, old school phone and some old concrete?

    • Unlike the Russians, NATO seem to be more civilian conscious. My father’s friend had a warehouse near Aleppo housing printing equipment. 4 years of war and changing territory control left it intact, without government or opposition troops ever setting foot in it. In one night, it was completely leveled by a Russian carpet bombing, destroying most of his equipment and killing two of his employees sleeping there to guard it.

      I don’t know about you, but scorched earth tactics sound more like something the Mongols would do than a modern day civilized nation.

    • It’s not about fighting, it’s about profits. The taxpayer pays (pun
      intended), the MIIC cashes in. If civvies are not happy about it, a
      terrorist attack emergency exercise transforms in a real one, and the
      cash flows again.

  2. Impressive payload…
    What? Are they armed with AAMs? Where is the outcry “but isis has no airplanes”?
    In the mean time, yanks are preparing an airfield in kurdish controlled NE Syria, near Rmelan (al-Hasakah province).

  3. NATO might be attempting to respond but it’s all too little, too late, with too much political weakness to do anything decisive. Meanwhile, our own ally – Turkey – is helping to prop up ISIL by attacking the very people (Kurds) who are capable of stopping them. Of course we’re still kowtowing to the Saudis who are ISIL’s benefactors just the same. Cooperation with Russia would achieve an end to ISIL if NATO could just get off of their high horse, accept that Russia and Assad are in fact the best options in this struggle, and fight an enemy that is not going to go away with ridiculous rhetoric and peaceful thoughts. ISIL doesn’t want to bargain, they don’t want a treaty, they don’t want a ceasefire, they want a world without infidels and they’ll die in droves to achieve it. When the West gets that through their rhetoric and ideologically-blinded minds maybe then we’ll be able to stop ISIL but who knows how long that will take – if it even happens.

    • As the F-22s, they were meant to count Soviet MiGs. They were unemployed alrady after graduation. But don’t worry, forward looking governments are sending them to a job re-qualification program to enter into the job market. It was a pity they were born old.. older then their parents.

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