For the first time since the war against the Islamic State began, U.S. and allied aircraft in August released more than 5,000 weapons in a single month.
According to an airpower summary posted online by U.S. Air Forces Central Command, coalition aircraft released 5,075 weapons in August. That’s well more than double the 2,244 released one year earlier, and more than the previous record of 4,848 weapons released in June.
Coalition aircraft operating in Afghanistan also released 503 weapons in August, which is the most in five years. The last time the monthly total in Afghanistan was higher was in August 2012, when 589 weapons were released.
The August totals continue a trend of noticeable increases in the number of weapons released in both conflicts throughout 2017.
AFCENT said in its airpower summary that most weapons released as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign to defeat ISIS, were in support of allied ground forces who successfully ousted ISIS from Tal Afar, Iraq, and continue to fight for Raqqa, Syria.
The highest weekly total of weapons released came during the week of Aug. 18, when 1,471 bombs were dropped, AFCENT said. Most of those were precision-guided munitions, AFCENT said.
AFCENT said the coalition laid the groundwork for the 12-day Iraqi operation to free Tal Afar by using its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to study ISIS’ movements there and compile a list of potential targets.
The coalition then struck hundreds of targets before the Iraqis launched their offensive to minimize the danger they faced. The coalition also released more than 800 weapons during the fight for Tal Afar.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Aug. 31 that Tal Afar and Ninewah provinces had been completely liberated from ISIS.
The coalition also flew about 600 sorties in August to drop almost 2,500 guided weapons to support the Syrian Democratic Forces’ ongoing fight for Raqqa, AFCENT said, which has already lasted three months.
Coalition aircraft also dropped more than 600 weapons against ISIS oil targets in August, AFCENT said. And coalition aircraft moved to stop a 17-bus convoy containing between 300 and 500 ISIS fighters and their families that was moving toward ISIS-controlled territory near Deir al Zour.
In Afghanistan, the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron conducted an airdrop to resupply coalition ground forces last month, which marked the first combat airdrop in that nation in more than two years, AFCENT said.
The 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron ― also known as the Triple Nickel ― has now dropped more than 600 weapons this year against the ISIS affiliate known as ISIS-Khorasan and the Taliban, AFCENT said. More F-16s also arrived in Afghanistan last month, which AFCENT said will improve the Air Force’s ability to conduct airstrikes and oversee ground forces.
These statistics do not account for all coalition weapons released. AFCENT’s summaries cover aircraft under Combined Forces Air Component Commander, or CFACC, control, which includes aircraft from all U.S. military branches and coalition aircraft, but not all aircraft in the area come under CFACC control.
Strikes conducted by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the Army are also not included in these statistics, meaning the number of weapons released this year is likely higher than the figures show.