The near future over Iraq and Kuwait: a CC-150 refuelling CF-188s. Seen here during Exercise Vigilant Eagle on 28 August 2013 (Image © Cpl Vicky Lefrancois, DAirPA / RCAF)

Overview: Air Assets deployed against ISIS – Mid 2015

B-1B Lancer
As much as it looks like a space ship on its way to warp speed, this is still a B-1B Lancer, better known as the Bone. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

STATUS MID 2015. LATEST UPDATE 24 JULY 2015 | The so-called Islamic State forces – numbering as many as 30,000 – have taken control over parts of Syria and Iraq since 2014. The forces known in short as ISIS or ISIL (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) pushed local populations to flee by the hundreds of thousands. ISIS also assassinated several Western journalists and other nationals, causing furious reactions in those countries.

>>> Check our entire Iraqsyrialog here >>>

Fearing more instability in and maybe even at home by fellow countrymen supporting the Syrian uprising, many Western countries first enrolled in a humanitarian aid mission to refugees in Northern Iraq in Summer 2014. After much discussion this turned into a full-out air campaign led by the United States of America, with the first US air strikes on ISIS positions in Iraq on 8 August 2014 and the first US/international air strikes in Syria on 23 September 2014.

Sailors direct an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Tomcatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), released on 2 October 2014 (Image © Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Stephens / USN)
Sailors direct an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Tomcatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), released on 2 October 2014 (Image © Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Stephens / USN)

Although ISIS has a strong foothold on the ground and making the governments of Iraq and Syria quite nervous because of the advances ISIS makes, the group has no air assets. While Iraq fully supports the US led bombing campaign, Washington kind of just informed the Syrian government that they would start bombing. Being uncertain of the Syrian reaction, the US deployed its very advanced and stealthy F-22 Raptors for the first time in combat and had aircraft tasked with countering Syrian air defences in case they would interfere.

During the course of several weeks many countries outside Southwest Asia promised military contributions to the air strikes and air support missions against ISIS. We at Airheadsfly.com tried to make an as complete as possible overview of the air assets deployed, based mainly on official sources. We’ll update the overview frequently.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

US Air Force (USAF)

The F-22 Raptor made its combat debut during the opening salvos of the air campaign against ISIS in Syria, taking full use of its secondary bombing role. (Image © Staff Sgt. Jim Araos / USAF)
The F-22 Raptor made its combat debut during the opening salvos of the air campaign against ISIS in Syria, taking full use of its secondary bombing role. (Image © Staff Sgt. Jim Araos / USAF)

Since 2014.08.08. Dozens of aircraft, including:

  • Rockwell B-1B Lancers, bomb / strike. Operating from a.o. facilities Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar
  • Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors, bomb / strike
  • Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles, attack /CAS
  • Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcons, attack/CAS. One F-16 was lost in an accident over Jordan on 30 November 2014, killing its pilot.
  • Lockheed Martin F-16CJ Fighting Falcons, anti-radar & anti-SAM
  • Fairchild A-10C Thunderbolts, close-air support / attack. Operating from Ahmed Al Jaber Airbase in Kuwait (confirmed November 2014)
  • Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers, in-flight refuelling
  • McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extenders, in-flight refuelling
  • Lockheed C-130 Hercules / Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules, airdrop of weapons, ammunitions and medical supplies near / in Kobane to Kurdish fighters 2014.10.20
  • General Atomics MQ-1 Predators, attack / recon drone
  • General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, attack / recon drone

Operating from several bases in the region, as well as the mainland USA. Since the end of July 2015 / beginning of August 2015 US forces also started to operate from Incirlik Airbase in Turkey, after that country gave up on an earlier blocking of such operations from its soil. US name the anti-ISIS actions Operation Inherent Resolve.

US Navy (USN)

An EA-6B Prowler attached to the Garudas of Electronic Attack Squadron 134 lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf after conducting strike missions against ISIL targets on 23 September 2014 (Image © Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Stephen / USN)
An EA-6B Prowler attached to the Garudas of Electronic Attack Squadron 134 lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf after conducting strike missions against ISIL targets on 23 September 2014 (Image © Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Stephen / USN)

Since 2014.08.08. 60 to 70 aircraft:

  • 12 Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornets, strike / attack (part of CVW-1; and earlier CVW-8 and successor CVW-17; confirmed involvement)
  • 22 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets, strike / attack (part of CVW-1; earlire 10 to 12 were part part of CVW-8 and successor CVW-17; confirmed involvement)
  • 20 to 24 Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornets, strike / attack (till April 2015; part of CVW-8 and successor CVW-17)
  • 5 Grumman EA-18G Growlers, anti-radar & anti-SAM (part of CVW-1 and 4 or 5 were part of CVW-17; since Mid-October)
  • 4 or 5 Grumman EA-6B Prowlers, anti-radar & anti-SAM (part of CVW-8; relieved Mid-October)
  • 4 Grumman E-2D Hakweye, AWACS (part of CVW-1; first cruise of E-2D version)
  • 3 or 4 Grumman E-2C Hakweye, AWACS (till April 2015; part of CVW-8 and successor CVW-17)
  • Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk, support (till Mid-October; part of CVW-8)
  • 7 Sikorsky SH-60F Seahawk, support (part of CVW-1)
  • 10 to 11 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, support (part of CVW-1; earlier part of CVW-8 and successor CVW-17, some placed on other ships)
  • 2 Grumman C-2A Greyhound, transport (part of CVW-8 and successor CVW-17)

Mid-October 2014 the CVN 70 USS Carl Vinson and that carrier’s Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW-17) with 67 aircraft relieved Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8) on board the CVN 77 USS George H.W. Bush (and escort ships) in the northern Arabian Gulf. The Carl Vinson was relieved by the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) with Carrier Air Wing 1. US named the anti-ISIS actions Operation Inherent Resolve.

US Marines (USMC)

An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, towards Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on 13 June 2013. (Image © Sgt Reece Lodder / US Marine Corps)
An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, towards Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on 13 June 2013. (Image © Sgt Reece Lodder / US Marine Corps)

Since 2014.09.28. Although the involvement of the US Marine Corps in the bombing campaign is very small (unknown at this point), the Marines do fight ISIS targets on the ground and support the operations of the other branches of the US military with shipborne aircraft of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in the Arabian Gulf (aka Persian Gulf). Moreover, the Marines provide ground based air assets.

  • At least 6 McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18, fighter / attack / CAS; land-based from February/March 2015; replaces AV-8Bs deployed
  • 10 McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18C(N), fighter / attack / CAS; part of US Navy CVW-1 operating from the Persian Gulf as of April 2015
  • 6 McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) AV-8B Harriers, attack / CAS, shipborne
  • Grumman EA-6B Prowler, electronic warfare, land-based
  • Lockheed KC-130, in-flight refuelling, land-based
  • Bell/Boeing MV-22B Ospreys, tilt-rotor assault/transport; land-based
  • 8 to 10 Bell/Boeing MV-22B Ospreys, tilt-rotor assault / transport, shipborne
  • 4 or more Bell AH-1Z Super Cobras, attack / CAS, shipborne
  • 3 or more Bell UH-1Y Hueys, attack / CAS / utility / medevac, shipborne
  • 3 or 4 Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallions, transport / assault, shipborne

Operating from the amphibious assault ship LHD 8 USS Makin Island and the amphibious transport dock ship LPD 22 USS San Diego. The dock landing ship LSD 45 USS Comstock sails along with them in the Arabian Gulf (aka Persian Gulf). US name the anti-ISIS actions Operation Inherent Resolve.

Iraqi Air Force (Al Quwwa al Jawwiya al Iraqiya; IQAF) and Iraqi Army Aviation (IQAR)

An Iraqi air force AC-208B Combat Caravan aircrew launches a Hellfire missile on 8 November 2010 at a target on the Aziziyah Training Range, south of Baghdad (Image Sgt. Brandon Bolick © US Army)
An Iraqi air force AC-208B Combat Caravan aircrew launches a Hellfire missile on 8 November 2010 at a target on the Aziziyah Training Range, south of Baghdad (Image Sgt. Brandon Bolick © US Army)
  • 3 Cessna AC-208Bs (armed scout) and 3 Cessna RC-208B (reconnaissance) from Kirkuk Airbase or another location. Since beginning of 2014 or before
  • 15 Sukhoi Su-25 (“Frogfoot”) attack and close-air support aircraft. Since Autumn 2014.
  • Up to 6 Mil Mi-35M (“Hind”) attack helicopters. One or two Mi-35s have been lost due to hostile fire.
  • Up to 15 Mil Mi-28NE Night Hunter attack helicopters are planned to have made its debut before the end of the year 2014, but no firm confirmation yet
  • Up to 19 Airbus Helicopters (Eurocopter) EC635 (IQAR) armed scout and ground support helicopters. Date of first combat action unknown. A twentieth EC635 was shot down in December 2014 by ISIS militants.
  • Up to 23 Bell 407 JetRanger armed scout and utility helicopters. A 24th Bell was lost due to hostile fire.
  • 6 Aérospatiale SA342 Gazelle scout helicopters

Armée de l’Air (AdlA) & Aéronautique Navale

Cool cockpit image of the Rafales at their petrol station in the skies above Iraq in September 2014 (Image © Armée de l'Air)
Cool cockpit image of the Rafales at their petrol station in the skies above Iraq in September 2014
(Image © Armée de l’Air)
  • 9 Dassault Rafales, reconnaissance / attack / CAS
  • 6 Dassault Mirage 2000D, attack / CAS. Announced 2014.11.19.
  • 1 Boeing C135FR, in-flight refuelling
  • 1 Breguet Atlantique 2, reconnaissance / bomb damage assessment

Initially the French contingency, made up of the Rafales, Boeing C135FR and Atlantique 2, only operated from the United Arab Emirates, Al Dhafra Airbase, since 2014.09.17. The Mirage 2000Ds announced in Mid-November fly from an airbase in Jordan. French name for the entire contribution is Operation Chammal.

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)

Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet ((A44-222) landing after an air display during the 2013 Avalon Airshow. (Image (CC) Bidgee)
A Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet, seen during the 2013 Avalon Airshow. (Image © Bidgee)
  • 6 to 8 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets, strike / attack
  • 1 Boeing E-7A Wedgetail, AWACS
  • 1 Airbus KC-30A, in-flight refuelling
  • 1 Boeing C-17A Globemaster III, transport of supplies and ammunition to Kurdish forces. Flew at least once between Tirana (Albania) and Erbil (Northern Iraq) in September 2014, before returning to the RAAF Forward Operation Location at Al Minhad Airbase in the UAE

Operating from the United Arab Emirates, Al Minhad Airbase, since 2014.10.01. The Australians have given the missions the name Operation Okra.

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)

A RCAF CF-188 Hornet escorting a CC-150 Polaris (Image © Sgt Alain Martineau / DND-MDN Canada)
A RCAF CF-188 Hornet escorting a CC-150 Polaris (Image © Sgt Alain Martineau / DND-MDN Canada)
  • 6 McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) CF-188 Hornets, strike / attack
  • 1 Airbus CC-150 Polaris, in-flight refuelling
  • 2 Lockheed CP-140 Aurora, reconnaissance / bomb damage assessment

Commencing operations in 3rd or 4th week of October 2014. Operating from a base in Kuwait, possible Ahmed Al Jaber Airbase where the Danish F-16s also fly from (see below). Canadians name the anti-ISIS actions Operation Impact.

Royal Air Force (RAF)

A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 being refueled by a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Polaris during Operation Inherent Resolve on 2 February 2015. (Image © Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND)
A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 being refueled by a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Polaris during Operation Inherent Resolve on 2 February 2015. (Image © Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND)
  • 8 Panavia Tornados, strike / attack; operating from RAF Base Akrotiri on Cyprus, since 2014.09.27.
  • Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint, surveillance; possibly be operating from RAF Base Akrotiri on Cyprus. Announced 2014.10.21. To be relieved by Sentinals.
  • Raytheon/Bombardier Sentinal, surveillance; possibly be operating from RAF Base Akrotiri on Cyprus. Announced 2015.03.26
  • General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, surveillance; relocation to Iraq announced 2014.10.16. Arrival date or base not known yet.

British name the anti-ISIS actions Operation Shader.

Flyvevåbnet (Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF))

Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM from Esk 727 with serial E-599 taking off (Image © Marcel Burger)
Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM from Esk 727 with serial E-599 taking off (Image © Marcel Burger)
  • 7 General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin) F-16AMs from Skrydstrup AB. Since 2014.10.05, but grounded until 16 October due to diplomatic clearance blunder
  • 1 Lockheed C-130J Hercules, transport of supplies and ammunition to Kurdish forces. Was based at RAF Base Akrotiri on Cyprus from 28 October to Mid-September. Continued support for the Iraqi operations even into 2015.

The F-16s are operating from Ahmed Al Jaber Airbase in Kuwait since 2014.10.04.

Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force (AMI))

An Italian Air Force KC-767 during a mission over Iceland (Image © Cpt. Jiri Cermak / Czech Air Force)
An Italian Air Force KC-767 during a mission over Iceland (Image © Cpt. Jiri Cermak / Czech Air Force)
  • 4 Panavia Tornados, tactical recon; operating from Ahmed Al Jaber Airbase in Kuwait. Since 2014.11.22
  • 1 Boeing KC-767A, in-flight refuelling; operating from Ahmed Al Jaber Airbase in Kuwait since 2014.10.26
  • 2 General Atomics MQ-1 Predators, attack / recon drone

Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF)

Want more desert camo, but with a splash of colour? This Tornado form Saudi Arabia provides just that. Saudi Arabia bought 134 Tornadoes, of which 96 were of the IDS-version, seen here. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Want more desert camo, but with a splash of colour? This Tornado form Saudi Arabia provides just that. Saudi Arabia bought 134 Tornadoes, of which 96 were of the IDS-version, seen here. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
  • 4 or more Panavia Tornado IDS and/or Boeing F-15S Strike Eagles; during start bombing campaign on targets in Syria in Summer 2014
  • Eurofighter EF2000 Typhoon multi-role fighters; according to some sources using Paveway IV precision guided weapons in February 2015, marking the combat debut of the weapon on this aircraft type

Other air forces (in order of appearance during the campaign)

A Jordan F-16, bought from surplus Belgium inventory. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Jordanian F-16, bought from surplus Belgium inventory. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
  • United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAEAF); at least 6 Lockheed Martin F-16s and/or Dassault Mirage 2000s; during start of bombing campaign on targets in Syria and continuing strikes afterwards. The UAE suspended its contribution in December 2014 after a Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot was captured, but resumed ops from a Jordanian airbase with at least 6 F-16E/Fs from February 2015.
  • Royal Bahraini Air Force (RBAF); at least 3 Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds; during start of bombing campaign on targets in Syria
  • Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF); at least 3 General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin) F-16AMs; operating from As Shaheed Muwaffaq al Salti Airbase in Al Azraq; during start of bombing campaign on targets in Syria and in follow up actions. One RJAF F-16 crashed or was shot down over Syria in December 2014, with ISIS forces capturing its pilot.
  • Belgian Air Component (BAC); 6 General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin) F-16AMs from Florennes AB; operating from Jordan, likely As Shaheed Muwaffaq al Salti Airbase in Al Azraq; since 2014.10.01. The Belgians named their involvement Operation Desert Falcon.
  • Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF / KLu); 8 General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin) F-16AMs (4 from Volkel AB, 4 from Leeuwarden AB); operating from Jordan, likely As Shaheed Muwaffaq al Salti Airbase in Al Azraq, since 2014.10.03
  • US Army (USAR): Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) AH-64D Apache; operating out of Baghdad International Airport officially as additional protection for the US Embassy. Might have carried out strikes against ISIS in the 2nd week of October 2014
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF): possible 4-8 McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs and maybe up to five Sukhoi Su-24MKs (Fencer); semi-confirmed by Teheran and operating apparently on request by the Iraqi government. NOT part of US-led operation Inherent Resolve. At least one operation on 2014.11.24. IRIAF pilots are also involved on operating Iraqi Air Force Su-25s.
  • Royal Moroccon Air Force: 6 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters, based in the United Arab Emirates. Since 2014.11.26.
  • Turkish Air Force: 3 Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters, operating out of Diyarbakir Airbase. First strike 2014.07.24, target in Syria.

© 2014 – 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger and Elmer van Hest

A Belgian Air Component General Dynamics (Lockheed-Martin) F-16AM Fighting Falcon just after take-off from its homebase Kleine Brogel, flying with 10 Wing (Image © Marcel Burger)
A Belgian Air Component Lockheed Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon just after take-off (Image © Marcel Burger)
An Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force F-4E Phantom II taking off (Image (CC) Shahram Sharifi)
An Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force F-4E Phantom II taking off (Image (CC) Shahram Sharifi)