Operation Inherent Resolve Continues Despite Ceasefire

 - March 14, 2016, 7:52 AM
A Boeing E-7A Wedgetail of the Royal Australian Air Force takes off from its base in UAE. (Photo: Australia Department of Defence)

Known as Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition effort against Daesh/Islamic State continues at a high rate, despite the ceasefire in Syria’s civil war. That agreement excludes Daesh and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.

The coalition effort is temporarily without heavy bomber support since the Boeing B-1B detachment was withdrawn from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar for necessary maintenance and overhaul. Preparations were under way to dispatch Boeing B-52H bombers to the region for operations to begin in April.

In late February, U.S. warplanes launched a raid against an Islamic State training camp in Libya as a sign of the campaign being widened. The aircraft operated from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, where the UK Royal Air Force maintains a force of Tornados and, since December, Eurofighter Typhoons, for anti-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria.

At around the same time as Canadian CF-18 Hornets were withdrawn from the coalition in mid-February, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was visiting Europe to garner more support for the operation, notably from NATO nations. At the same time, the UAE announced that it would restart operations against Daesh, and that Saudi Arabia would increase its contribution. To that end, the Royal Saudi Air Force prepared to deploy Boeing F-15S fighter-bombers to Incirlik in southern Turkey for anti-Daesh operations over Syria. They first arrived at the base on February 26.

Several European nations signaled their intentions to increase commitments, including Poland and Romania. Denmark also announced it would return to the campaign—its F-16AMs having earlier flown 547 missions over northern Iraq. The detachment operated from Ahmed al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait between October 2014 and September 2015, when the aircraft were withdrawn for overhaul.

Germany joined the effort in January, with Tornados deployed to Ahmed al Jaber for reconnaissance duties. Italy also has Tornados and a KC-767 tanker based in Kuwait, as well as two MQ-9 Reaper UAVs. The German deployment was undertaken in response to a request from France made in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks in November. France has been one of the key contributors to the campaign, with Mirage 2000s based at Al Azraq in Jordan and Rafales at Al Dhafra in the UAE.

Meanwhile, the Australian Department of Defence has released some details of Operation Okra, its participation in the anti-Daesh coalition. The RAAF’s Air Task Group, based at Al Minhad in the UAE, comprises six Hornets, a single KC-30A tanker and an E-7A Wedgetail command and control aircraft. Between the start of operations in late September 2014 and March 2015, F/A-18F Super Hornets flew 418 sorties, dropping 278 munitions. F/A-18A “legacy” Hornets took over the detachment in March 2015, and by the end of January had flown 727 sorties during which 555 munitions had been dropped. The E-7 had undertaken 185 missions, and the KC-30A had flown 534.

It has also emerged that two OV-10G+ Bronco Combat Dragon II aircraft were used in the middle of last year, with U.S. Navy crews flying 120 combat missions over Syria as part of an ongoing evaluation.