A group of caves, situated thirty miles north-west of Tikrit, were confirmed as being used by Islamic State both as accommodation and storage for improvised explosive devices.

This comes not long after previous groups of caves were hit.

Two Typhoons were accordingly tasked to attack the terrorist position on Monday the 22nd of June.

Having checked the area for any civilians who might be at risk, four Paveway IVs were successfully used to strike four carefully selected targets within the cave network.

Background on Operation Shader

The Ministry of Defence say that since liberating the last territory held by Daesh, in March 2019, the RAF has flown daily armed reconnaissance patrols to “prevent the violent extremists from re-establishing footholds in Iraq or Syria”.

The Ministry of Defence also advise that precision strikes result from the “patient and methodical production of actionable intelligence”, and are “only conducted after thorough surveillance of the target and surrounding area for any signs of civilians, ensuring they are not placed at risk”.

This section is intended to provide a bit of background on British efforts in the region and if you’ve read it before, please remember others may not have.

In September last year, the Ministry of Defence had announced that over 1,000 personnel were engaged in theatre and that the Royal Air Force had conducted around 1,000 airstrikes, flying over 2,800 sorties, killing over 3,000 Islamic State fighters.

Last year, it was reported that the Royal Air Force was operating at its most intense for 25 years in a single theatre of operation which far outstripped the UK involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan – RAF jets have dropped 11 times more bombs (1,276 strikes) on Syria and Iraq in the preceding 12 months than they had in the busiest year of action in Afghanistan a decade previously.

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Politics aside and Looking at it very coldly, I suppose this gives the pilots and all the support teams invaluable experience working at a relatively high operational tempo. Experience is the best trainer and such like.


Is a 500lb Paveway IV enough against a deep bunker or cave? Does the RAF need to go to 1000lb or 2000lb class weapons for this kind of strike? I know the Americans are pitching the JSOW-C to F-35A customers, saying its shallow angle of glide attack means it can go a distance into a cave mouth before exploding.


I suppose if you drop the cave entrance you have effectively sealed it. The blast wave compression would be very intense inside the cave, possibly causing internal haemorrhaging. I remember an ARP warden recounting finding a shelter that was untouched by a German bomb. However, the occupants were all dead from the pressure wave! Apparently they were all slumped on the benches where they had sat down!

Ian M

Overpressure of the levels generated by a couple of hundred Kgs of H.E funneled down a constricted tunnel is pretty destructive to soft squidgy people.

Barry Larking

Ballard Berkeley who played Maj. Gowen in ‘Fawlty Towers’. As John Cleese told the story Berkeley was greeted by such a scene when an A.R.P in the London Blitz. The Café de Paris was located in downstairs basement and everyone sat in their seats untouched it seemed except by the time he arrived their ring fingers had been severed. The bomb that killed them burst outside in the street. ‘The son of Joseph and Beatrice Blascheck, he was born in Margate, Kent.[1] He served as a Special Constable with the Metropolitan Police during the Second World War, witnessing the Blitz… Read more »


The Paveway has a bit of glide capacity, nothing like the SDB, but can follow a bell curve towards a target. So for a cave, there’s every chance that it doesn’t just strike the entrance obliquely, but can penetrate it slightly.

Nigel Collins

2019. Raytheon claims the new warhead has the performance of the BLU-109 penetrating bomb, despite being one-quarter of its weight.


Nigel Collins

An interesting thought for the experts, if the new warhead has the performance of the BLU-109 penetrating bomb, despite being one-quarter of its weight, could we not design this type of warhead for a new
ASM using Storm Shadow?

Nigel Collins

My understanding is it only requires a software upgrade?

“The BLU-109/B has a steel casing about 1 inch (25 mm) thick, filled with 530 pounds (240 kg) of Tritonal. It has a delayed-action tail-fuze. The BLU-109 entered service in 1985. It is also used as the warhead of some marks of the GBU-15 electro-optically guided bomb, the GBU-27 Paveway III laser-guided bomb, and the AGM-130 rocket-boosted weapon. This weapon can penetrate 4–6 feet of reinforced concrete,[2] which is greater than the 3-foot capability of the Small Diameter Bomb.”

Robert Blay

The very high accuracy and advanced fuse options of the paveway 4 mean that they can achieve the same bang with a smaller weapon.


Isn’t it about time the RAF invest in a squadron (or two) of relatively unsophisticated and very much cheaper (to purchase and to operate) COIN type aircraft. Aircraft like the Super Tucano or a similar aircraft would be able to carry out the majority of missions currently being carried out in Syria or Iraq and even Afghanistan. It could operate laser designators and guided bombs and missiles with as much effectiveness as the Typhoon in this type of operation. I realise they’re use in a highly defended environment would be limited but how often is that the case. Even BAE… Read more »


That’s what reaper and protector are for. We have those texan aircraft for training that I’m sure could be upgraded but I think uav is the way to go when it comes to ground attack in uncontested airspace


I don’t believe drones at the moment can give the sort of ground support to troops actively engaged with the enemy. I mean the close support necessary. It may involve gunfire or unguided rockets rather than smart missiles and guided bombs. Also a level of flexibility in the decision making by aircrews is necessary for that sort of operation that would perhaps be difficult for drone operators. Perhaps you’re right though. I’m not sure if Reaper or Protector have the ability to carry the sort of ordinance necessary to destroy cave complexes, I honestly don’t know. It beggars the question… Read more »

Robert Blay

A number of reasons western airforces don’t do these types of operations with simple aircraft. They don’t have the range, speed or payload that would be useful in such a hot and high environment, and the vast distances that need to be covered over Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. They aren’t air air refuelling capable, the don’t carry link16, or secure comunications. And the cost of introducing a new type of aircraft, and everything that goes with it, you might as well have bought a few more Typhoons or Protectors. Reapers can do the job just as well, can stay on… Read more »

Matt C

Excellent answer.


I know it all sounds a bit call of duty. But ideally we should be at a point where infantry on the ground have a toughened tablet that networks straight into the protector over theirs heads and they can designate the target themselves. A pilot in a cockpit doesn’t have anymore visibility than an operator commanding a uav especially if they are on the ground. But there is that added risk of signal jamming and a uav not having the DAS as a manned aircraft


Either way we need a lot more uavs that the pitiful amount we have today to support infantry. We need hundreds of them for recon alone

Barry Larking

Precisely Jason.




Well said Dan?


Off topic, just… I see that the RAF are showing a 3D model of the Tempest. Looks like they are confident of exposing details of the airframe.


I see a RAF post pointing out LANCA… Light Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft. A neat acronym for a semi-autonomous drone linked to Tempest.