A Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jet crashed in an area of Northern Syria controlled by the so-called Islamic State forces on Wednesday 24 December 2014. The pilot was captured by ISIS / ISIL troops, that claimed to have shot down the aircraft. If true, it would mark the first time ISIS/ISIL succeeded in shooting down a jet aircraft.
According to a human rights watch group the aircraft came down near Raqqa. Initial speculation about the downed jet being a Royal Jordan Air Force F-16 was later confirmed by ISIS, Jordanian and US sources. A picture of the canopy of the aircraft appeared quickly on social media. The pilot was later shown in a ISIS video surrounded by armed men of a rebel group, and Jordan has confirmed it is missing one of its pilots without going into further details.
Despite claims of ISIS that it shot down the RJAF F-16, there is no conclusive evidence the airplane was indeed shot down; it may well have crashed due to other reasons. However, Islamic State force earlier succeeded in shooting down an Iraqi Air Force EC635 helicopter over Iraq – killing its crew – but never before a fighter aircraft. If they did, that may point to the ISIS/ISIL-forces are getting their hands on more advanced weaponry. However,
The international coalition fighting ISIS/ISIL forces includes F-16s from several countries, with both the Belgian Air Component and the Royal Netherlands Air Force operating F-16s out of Jordan. But they focus on Iraq and sources were quickly to indicate the captured pilot spoke Arabic. A US Air Force F-16 was lost in an accident over Jordan on Sunday 30 November 2014, killing its pilot. The aircraft was involved in operations against ISIS / ISIL, but was not engaged in any combat action at that time.
The downing / crash of the RJAF F-16 in hostile area raises questions on how realistic and effective combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions are in the area. The thought of a CSAR mission package going into the area to retrieve a downed pilot in a environment this hostile and unpredictable, seems daunting. How well organised the international CSAR assets in the area are, is unknown. But the US did move A-10s from Afghanistan into Kuwait earlier, partly to support a possible future CSAR scenario.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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
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)
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
9 Dassault Rafales, reconnaissance / attack / CAS
6 Dassault Mirage 2000D, attack / CAS. Announced 2014.11.19.
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)
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)
6 McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) CF-188 Hornets, strike / attack
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)
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))
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))
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)
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)
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
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.
The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor has made its combat debut during air strikes over Syria against the forces of the so-called Islamic State (named ISIS or ISIL), according to news reports and a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday 23 September. The stealthy fighter was used next to Lockheed Martin F-16s, Boeing F/A-18 Hornets and Rockwell B-1B bombers. Also, the air forces of Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates joined in the raids, say sources.
The F-22s very likely operate from the United Arab Emirates, that saw deployment of the type earlier. The operational debut in the skies over Syria may come as a surprise, as the F-22 was initially designed to be an air-superiority fighter. However, the use of the F-22 sends a strong message to Syrian president Assad to not use his still quite potent air force to interfere with operations. Syria has MiG-25 Foxbat and MiG-29 Fulcrum air-to-air capable fighters at its disposal, among others.
The debut – during which the F-22 according to the Pentagon “delivered GPS-guided munitions targeted at a command-and-control centre in a building” – also gives the US Air Force the chance the see how the Raptor handles the Russia-supplied radar installations in Syria. This information may come in handy in light of growing tensions elsewhere in the world. It is the most realistic test scenario imaginable.
The F-22 Raptor prototype first flew in 1990, followed by the first production aircraft in 1997. The type reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2005. The US originally set eyes on hundreds of F-22 Raptors, but finally settled for 187 aircraft, as the price tag of about 400 million USD per aircraft was deemed too steep.
The combat debut of the Raptor is reminiscent of the debut of the F-117A Nighthawk in 1989 in operation Just Cause over Panama. That debut also served one true purpose: here I am. Be aware.
(According to the US Pentagon, US Navy, released US DoD imagery and sources in the Persian Gulf countries, including the Bahraini government)
LATEST UPDATE 26 SEPTEMBER 2014
01:30 UTC: 1st wave of attack by US Navy guided-missile cruiser CG-58 USS Philippine Sea and guided-missile destroyer DDG-51 USS Arleigh Burke, cruising in the northern Arabian Gulf, launch 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles against targets in eastern and northern Syria. Targets around Aleppo and Ar-Raqqah, mostly at Khorasan Group compounds
02:00 UTC: 2nd wave of attack executed from several air bases (which ones were not disclosed) by US Air Force F-22s, F-15Es, F-16s, B-1Bs and drones against targets in Northern Syria. Some of the F-16s were equipped in a standard SEAD lay-out: sporting AGM-88 HARM missiles to kill any Syrian air defence radar that might be turned on, and AIM-120s plus AIM-9s to aim at any Syrian aircraft approaching
05:00 UTC: 3rd wave of attack by F/A-18s that launched from the aircraft carrier CVN 77 USS George H.W. Bush in the northern Arabian Gulf (aka Persian Gulf), accompanied by one or more EA-6B Prowlers to suppress and counter Syrian radar guided defences in case they would be turned on, regionally based USAF F-16s and a big number of undisclosed aircraft from “coalition partners” (the Arabian countries) against targets in eastern Syria, including ISIS training camps and vehicles near Dayr az-Zawr. According to sources within the Middle East amongst the aircraft involved were at least 4 Royal Saudi Air Force Tornado IDS fighter-bombers and/or F-15S Strike Eagles, at least 4 United Arab Emirates F-16s and/or Mirage 2000s, at least 3 Royal Bahraini Air Force F-16C/Ds and some Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16AM/BMs.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) is arming the six Air Tractor/Iomax AT-802 BPAs it got from the United Arab Emirates to upgrade them from just border patrol and reconnaissance to armed recon, counter-insurgency and close-air support aircraft. Before the end of the year the upgraded type will reach its operational capability status.
The AT-802s were originally made by Air Tractor for the agricultural business, but the type’s strong wings, good survivability, low-cost and easiness to operate have given it an interesting military role for air forces that face an interior low- to intermediate threat for which advanced fighter jets are just a bit to valuable and overdone to use. US Honeywell Aerospace company Iomax has made it its business to tailor the AT-802 for the combat role.
With the new modifications the RJAF AT-802s will be able to launch up to six AGM-114 Hellfire missiles as well as up to six GBU-58 250 lbs precision-guided bombs, each on its own pylon underneath the wing, making the aircraft a valuable asset. The sensors to guide the missiles to their targets will be in a casing on the belly of the aircraft.
The Pakistan Air Force received five former Royal Jordan Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons on Sunday 27 April, reports in Pakistan say. The five fighter aircraft were reportedly flown to Mushaf Airbase, some 125 miles (200 kilometres) south of Islamabad. The deal between Jordan and Pakistan is for twelve F-16AM and one F-16BM aircraft – although pictures actually show two BM models arriving in Pakistan.The transfer of F-16s was announced earlier this year.
Pakistan already operates 63 F-16s, in versions varying from rather outdated F-16A and B aircraft to state-of-the-art, quite recently delivered block 52+ F-16C and D aircraft. The modernized F-16AM and BM fighters purchased from Jordan, are intended to further strengthen the country’s air force. The F-16s involved are said to have another 20 years of service life left in them.
Jordan in turn, received its first F-16s in 1997 from US surplus inventory. Over the years, used Fighting Falcons from Belgium and the Netherlands also found their way to the middle eastern country, bringing the total number up to 64 aircraft.
The deal with Pakistan raises some eyebrows, as Jordan is said to be in negotiations with the Netherlands over a further number of used F-16s. It therefore seems a bit strange to sell F-16s to Pakistan, only to buy additional – and virtually identical – F-16s from Dutch surplus inventory.