Tag Archives: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Urban Counter-Insurgency Airstrikes On ISIS Targets In The Philippines Suited to Legacy OV-10 Bronco

Philippine OV-10 Broncos Attack ISIL Targets in Marawi. Two OV-10 aircraft were flown in an experiment supporting Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

The Philippine Air Force has revived the legacy Rockwell OV-10 Bronco light attack aircraft in recent airstrikes on Maute and Abu Sayyaf insurgents associated with ISIL in the city of Marawi in the Philippines.

Beginning with the capture of the central section of Marawi on May 23, Philippine special operations units have fought a difficult house-to-house urban battle to reclaim territory lost to the terrorists. The OV-10 Broncos have supported the operation with mostly unguided bombs, a dangerous mission in close proximity to friendly forces.

The ten remaining OV-10 Broncos in Philippine inventory, including eight upgraded to deliver precision guided weapons, have been used for airstrikes in the densely populated urban area of Marawi in the Philippines. A shortage of guided weapons in Philippine military inventory has caused the aircraft to rely on predominantly unguided weapons.

A Philippine Air Force OV-10 Bronco. (Samuel Forston)

The North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco was developed as a forward air control/counter insurgency aircraft during the Vietnam War. It first flew in July of 1965.

In recent U.S./coalition testing the legacy OV-10 Bronco distinguished itself as a highly effective and reliable urban counter-insurgency asset.

Two of the OV-10 aircraft were flown in an experiment supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led international campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. While the specific locations and objectives of the experimental U.S. OV-10 strikes were not disclosed U.S. Central Command did confirm that the OV-10 Broncos flew 134 sorties, including 120 combat missions, over a span of 82 days beginning in May 2015. Interestingly, a U.S. Navy crew was reported to be flying these strikes.

As of Monday, Jun. 12, 2017 local reports in the Philippines claim that approximately 200 remaining terrorists have been contained to a roughly three-block area in downtown Marawi. Airstrikes by the OV-10’s are centered in that area. There have also been strikes flown by the South Korean built FA-50PH “Fighting Eagle” light jet aircraft.

The United States is providing surveillance and other unspecified support of the operation with a P-3 Orion surveillance and control aircraft. Additionally, U.S. special operations forces have been seen on the ground during the campaign. The U.S. special operations personnel were photographed with control equipment for flying the AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma light surveillance drone. The RQ-20 is a battery-powered, nearly silent hand-launched surveillance drone that carries small cameras with regular and infrared imaging. It can send the live video images back to ground forces for use in targeting and surveillance.

U.S. special operations operators control a light drone in Marawi, Philippines. (Twitter via Abraxas Spa)

The anti-ISIL campaign in the Philippines continues the discussion about the increased role of light attack aircraft in the Global War on Terror. Many new entries into the light attack turboprop category have been introduced during the last decade including the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, Beechcraft AT-6 and the agriculture based Air Tractor AT-802U. Proponents of these aircraft argue they are more capable of prosecuting targets with high precision, smaller weapons with less risk of collateral damage and for lower cost than larger jet-powered aircraft programs.

Top image credit: Samuel Forston

 

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U.S. Army Rangers Kill ISIS-K Leader in Combined Air/Ground Raid in Afghanistan.

Army Confirms U.S. Raid in Afghanistan Following MOAB Strike Killed ISIS-K Leader.

The U.S. military confirmed in a statement on May 7 that the ISIS-K leader in Afghanistan, Sheikh Abdul Hasib, was killed by a combined air/ground operation last month.

The raid included airstrikes by U.S. F-16s, AC-130s, drones and AH-64 Apache helicopters along with elite Army Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment of Fort Benning, Georgia. The combined air/ground raid followed the April 13 airstrike by a U.S. Special Operations C-130 using the first massive eleven-ton GBU-43B MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Burst) ever dropped in combat.

Two Army Rangers, Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers, 22 years old from Normal, Illinois, of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas, 23 years old from Kettering, Ohio, of Company D, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were killed in action during the raid. A statement issued by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan reads: “USFOR-A is investigating the possibility that the two Rangers were accidentally killed by friendly fire during the more than three-hour fight.” Both of the Army Rangers killed were on their third deployment to Afghanistan.

Army Rangers Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas were killed in the raid. (US Army)

The Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, released a statement saying the raid by Army Rangers was “another important step in our relentless campaign to defeat ISIS-K in 2017.” General Nicholson also wrote, “This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters,” Nicholson said. “For more than two years, ISIS-K has waged a barbaric campaign of death, torture and violence against the Afghan people, especially those in southern Nangarhar.” (Editor’s Note: “ISIS-K” is the designation for “ISIS-Khorasan”, the ISIS cell in the region.)

Photo (released on ISIL channel on January 23) from ISIL patrol in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan prior to the U.S. raid.

Efforts to neutralize ISIS-K leader Sheikh Abdul Hasib were accelerated following a deadly terrorist raid directed by Hasib earlier this year on March 8. The ISIS-K terrorists dressed in hospital uniforms to infiltrate the Sardar Mohammed Daud Khan hospital in Afghanistan after one of their suicide bombers initiated the attack by blowing himself up at the south gate of the facility. Over 30 people were killed in the hospital following the six-hour attack by the terrorists.

The Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Regiment were spearheading a combined air/ground operation in cooperation with Afghan forces that included armed surveillance RPV’s, U.S. Air Force F-16s and an Air Force AC-130 gunship along with U.S. Army AH-64 Apache gunship helicopters. Over 50 Army Rangers participated in the raid that lasted “several hours” and began at approximately 22:30 local time under cover of darkness. The Rangers were inserted into the area by helicopter.

File photo of aerial gunner Airman 1st Class Sean reloads 40mm rounds into an auto-cannon aboard an AC-130U Spooky gunship during exercise Teak Knife 12-3 above Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea, Sept. 12, 2012. The exercise is part of a continuous exercise program between U.S. and ROK forces to help strengthen and enhance the readiness of Republic of Korea and U.S. forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)

Army Ranger teams include members trained to coordinate airstrikes in conjunction with their ground operations. However, de-conflicting airstrikes in close proximity to enemy troops in the dark and in mountainous terrain, and airstrikes within 1000 meters usually called “danger close”, is inherently dangerous.

Because of the possibility of a formal investigation into the deaths of Sgt. Rogers and Sgt. Thomas no details have been released about the specific aircraft or units that conducted the airstrikes supporting the Ranger raid that neutralized Abdul Hasib.

Top image: file photo of an F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Aug. 12, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Krystal Ardrey /Released)

 

U.S. Air Force Video Shows ISIS Militants Failing To Launch A UAV In Syria

ISIS Unmanned Aerial Vehicle fail as seen from above.

ISIS is known to operate a wide variety of UAVs. Surveillance, Kamikaze, grenade-dropping drones and quadcopters are often dispatched to perform both reconnaissance and bombing missions.

Their ability to drop small bombs with pinpoint accuracy has raised concerns that Daesh fighters could attack Iraqi and coalition troops as well as civilians, not only from the ground, but also from the air.

For this reason, increasingly, U.S. and allied aircraft flying over Syria and Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve are tasked with hunting COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) and Daesh-modified drones, their launch sites or production facilities.

However, sometimes kinetic air strikes are not even needed to destroy these small drones.

The following video was taken on Mar. 30, 2017, near Tabqah, Syria.

It shows a Daesh militant attempting to launch a small UAV from a roof. The scene, seemigly filmed from a Reaper or Predator drone, ends with the UAV crash landing in front of the building.

 

U.S. Air Force Special Operations MC-130 Has Just Dropped Largest U.S. Conventional Bomb on ISIS Cave Complex in Afghanistan

First Ever Operational Use of the GBU-43B MOAB Suggests Target Was of Strategic Value.

A U.S. Air Force Special Operations MC-130 Combat Talon II has dropped the first operational GBU-43B MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Burst) on a cave complex target in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. Intelligence indicated members of the so-called Islamic State were using the cave complex. Both personnel and equipment were targeted in the strike that occurred at approximately 1800 hr.s local.

The massive, 11-ton, parachute deployed GBU-43B is the largest conventional air dropped weapon ever employed by the U.S. military. The “MOAB” produces shock, overpressure and blast effects equal to tactical nuclear weapons without residual radioactive fallout or the political ramifications associated with nuclear weapons.

The GBU-43B MOAB is deployed from a specially adapted MC-130 Combat Talon II using a system of rollers and a deployment sled. The bomb is attached to the deployment sled then pulled from the rear cargo ramp using a drogue parachute. Once pulled out the back cargo door of the MC-130 the sled falls away from the 30-foot long bomb. The bomb uses guidance wings and a system of stabilizers to maintain consistent ballistic flight trajectory and control its descent rate for more precise guidance. The MOAB uses a satellite guidance system along with internal gyros. GPS target coordinates are initially slaved from the launch aircraft then programmed into the weapon prior to release in close proximity to the target. Once released at medium to high altitude depending on target stand-off requirements the weapon uses its internal GPS for its terminal guidance to the target.

The GBU-43B is primarily intended to produce an “overpressure” or localized barometric shock wave effect to neutralize its target. The 9,500-kilogram bomb uses 18,700 pounds of H6 explosive, a combination of RDX explosive made of cyclotrimethylene trinitramine, conventional TNT explosive used in commercial dynamite and aluminum powder. The high-energy H6 explosive is made in Australia according to sources and is also used in concussive weapons such as mines and depth charges to produce a similar overpressure effect.

The shock wave generated by the massive release of energy from the explosion is transmitted through the air and into solid objects such as reinforced bunkers and cave complexes. This often results in their collapse. U.S. military officials also note a significant psychological impact to the employment of the GBU-43B MOAB because of its massive blast and the ability to produce a large mushroom-shaped cloud in certain atmospheric and terrain environments mimicking the appearance of a nuclear strike. There is no radioactive component to the GBU-43B.

According to several sources this was likely the only GBU-43B in the operational theater. Unless production has resumed, there are likely only 15 (14 now) operational GBU-43B MOAB weapons in U.S. inventory. The use of the weapon suggests that the target attacked was of strategic importance to the conflict in the region. Because of the special equipment and planning required to employ the GBU-43B this operation likely took a number of days minimally to plan prior to execution. No bomb damage assessment information has been released about the strike yet.

The MOAB should not be mistaken with the MOP (Massive Ordnance Penetrator) bunker buster bomb.

What has emerged so far about the deadly U.S. Special Operations on Al Qaeda in Yemen

Yemen Raid by U.S. Navy Task Force Blue Yields Intelligence on Terror Operations, U.S. President Trump Flies to Dover AFB for Arrival of Fallen SEAL Remains.

Additional information has emerged about the U.S. Special Operations Command raid on an Al Qaeda installation in the Yakla Region of Baida Province, Yemen that took place over the weekend.

While details of the raid remain classified ABC13 News Now reporter Elise Brown broke a story earlier today when she reported that a source told ABC News, “It was as though Al Qaeda knew the SEALs were coming, and were ready.”

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, 36, from Illinois was reported as killed in action during the operation. Three other U.S. personnel were wounded during the raid and three more were reported injured during a hard landing in a U.S. Marine MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. That aircraft was intentionally destroyed by U.S forces on the ground following the crash to prevent its recovery by adversaries.

While it is likely the raid was conducted by a composite task force of U.S. special operations personnel, CPO Owens was a member of an East Coast U.S. Navy SEa, Air, Land (SEAL) team originating from Little Creek, Virginia. Media outlets have reported that Owens was a member of the specially trained Task Force Blue often referred to as “SEAL Team Six” in mass media.

The U.S. Navy’s Task Force Blue is comprised of “Squadrons” similar to other counter-terror special operations units. Red, Gold, Blue and Silver Squadrons are operational “raid” squadrons and are often assisted and/or accompanied by members of Black Squadron, an intelligence gathering and analysis asset. It is not known which squadron CPO Owens was attached to.

Official statements reflect that the primary objective of the raid was to seize physical intelligence assets such as electronic media, computer hard drives and documents that will provide a detailed insight into terrorist planning for future Al Qaeda operations. In an official release to the Reuters News Agency the U.S. Defense Department told reporters the raid provided, “Information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.”

According to reporting by Mohammed El Sherif in Cairo for Reuters, “The local al Qaeda unit [in Yemen] organized the Charlie Hebdo magazine attack in Paris in 2015 and has repeatedly tried to down U.S. airliners.”

The raid resulted in a “one hour firefight” according to local reports on the ground. While reports of casualties have varied most media outlets suggest between 17-30 indigenous personnel, some reported to be Al Qaeda members, were killed on the ground during the raid.

The weekend raid by U.S special operations forces was planned “well in advance” based on intelligence gathered during previous months. Timing for the raid was specific as one source inside the U.S. military speaking on conditions of anonymity reported, “There were operational reasons why it happened when it did.” A contributing factor may have been the moon phase. The raid happened during a new moon, a period when lunar illumination at the target area is at its lowest providing maximum darkness.

Approximate location of the raid (Google Earth screenshot)

Satellite images of the region show terrain that is hilly surrounding encampments and small cities at elevations usually below 1500 feet. This suggests high altitude vortex ring state was not a factor in the crash of the MV-22 Osprey during the raid.

Vortex Ring State was a potential factor in the crash of a U.S. Special Operations helicopter at the beginning of Operation Neptune Spear, the raid to capture Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011. Vortex ring state happens when rotary wing aircraft, such as the U.S. Marine MV-22 Ospreys used in this raid, settle into their own rotor wash and descend rapidly as a result of losing lift.

Weather in the region during the raid indicated low overnight temperatures of 70° Fahrenheit with visibility under the new moon phase of “8 miles” with moderate humidity and winds below 10 mph. These, along with the lighting conditions of the dark moon, were good conditions for the operation as reported.

Several media outlets have reported that the raid was launched from a U.S. Navy ship south of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden.

Additional air support was likely provided by U.S. Marine AH-1Z Viper gunships deployed from the same ship. Some local media reports on the ground said the gunships were “U.S. Apaches”. This is unlikely since the raid originated from a shipboard location according to reports.

The names of ships in the region are generally a matter of operational security but analysis through elimination suggests that if the raid originated from an assault ship, it could have been the USS Kearsarge, Bataan, Bon Homme Richard, Iwo Jima or Makin Island. Online sources account for the location of the assault ships USS Wasp, Essex and Boxer.

Another interesting seaborne asset recently reported in the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet area of operations is the unusually configured USS Ponce (AFSB(1)-15). The USS Ponce is an interesting possibility in this case since it has undergone modifications to support special operations, has a helicopter landing deck and other features for special operations. The USS Ponce is also used for operational testing of the shipboard Laser Weapon System (LaWS), a weapon used to repel small craft from attacking a larger vessel.

A rigid-hull inflatable boat manned by members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 12 enters the well deck of Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15). EODMU-12 is assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1, which provides mine countermeasures, explosive ordnance disposal, salvage-diving, counter-terrorism, and force protection for the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR). Ponce, formerly designated as an amphibious transport dock ship, was converted and reclassified to fulfill a long-standing U.S. Central Command request for an AFSB to be located in its area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Raegen/Released)

Also recently reported in the area as support assets are the guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze (DDG-94) and the USS Mason (DDG-87) along with the seaborne forward staging base USS Ponce. These vessels were reported operational on station off Yemen near the Bab el-Mandeb strait that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden in September. If they remain in this region they may have contributed to the operation.

U.S. special operations in Yemen have come into focus following an NBC News report on May 6, 2016 that quoted U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, as saying that, “A small number of American military personnel are in Yemen providing limited support to the Yemeni government and Arab coalition battling al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”. This contradicts a previous report that stated “American forces have not conducted any special operations in Yemen since December 2014.”

Finally, in late breaking news Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump made an unannounced visit to Dover AFB in Delaware for the return of the remains of U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens killed in Sunday’s raid in Yemen. President Tump flew to Dover AFB on Marine One with his daughter Ivanka Trump and U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.


U.S. President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump walk toward Marine One while departing from the White House, on Feb. 1, 2017, en route to Dover Air Force Base. (Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)