The Air Force has flown more than half of the 87,000 coalition sorties over Iraq and Syria since the air campaign against the Islamic State militant group began, striking key locations and assets about 25 times a day, Lt. Gen. John Raymond told reporters Thursday.
That number may increase in the weeks ahead as Iraqi forces advance to reclaim Mosul, the most populous city in the territory held by ISIS.
The U.S. has primarily targeted the Islamic State group through its nascent air campaign, likely to develop in weeks ahead as Iraqi forces advance to reclaim Mosul.
To date, the Air Force has been the service in the airwar responsible for flying more than half of the 87,000 sorties over Iraq and Syria, striking key locations roughly 25 times daily, Lt. Gen. John Raymond told reporters on Thursday.
"We have conducted 67 percent of the nearly 11,000 airstrikes," said Raymond, deputy chief of staff for Air Force operations, said. "From F-15s to F-22s to A-10s to B-1s to [remotely piloted aircraft], we use all of the aircraft to meet the ... mission demands of the mission at hand."
Military officials, from Air Combat Command commander Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, to Lt. Gen. Charles Brown Jr., commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, have heralded the Air Force’s performance against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from the successful endorsing the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions flown by the F-22 Raptor in the region of the F-22 Raptor flying in the area, to the ability of the A-10 Thunderbolt to destroy the Islamic State's oil and cash reserves.means to the gunships of the A-10 destroying the Islamic State’s oil and cash reserves.
But what aircraft conducts the most strikes? Which fighters soar from the flightline more often?
The B-1 bomber can lay claim to the title for the U.S. aircraft to release the most ordnance since Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon's name for the campaign, began in 2014, according to Air Force Central Command statistics of manned aircraft provided to Air Force Times.
The decades-old B-1 bomber has dropped almost 40 percent of the Air Force bombs on Islamic State-held targets, according to the service's statistics say. Unsurprisingly, this correlates with the B-1’s 75,000-pound payload capacity, — which can include store both precision-guided and and non-precision weapons in its belly — of 75,000 pounds.
The U.S. Air Force is using five manned aircraft for its missions in support of the war on Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria. A look at how each is being employed:
Photo Credit: John Bretschneider
"Pretty much any target that the enemy would have, we’ll have the type of weapons and the number of weapons to make sure that it's going to be a first look, a successful strike that eliminates that target from the battle space," a lieutenant colonel, identified only as Lt Col. identified as "Joseph," recently told Air Force Times.
Joseph was the commander of a for the B-1 crew with the 37th Bomb Squadron out of Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, that returned in January from a six-month deployment to the Middle East.
"We only do precision," Joseph continued. "We want to be deliberate. A precise weapon ... allows us to strike the area that we've been tasked to, identified as an enemy target."
is responsible for flying
In comparison, the F-16 accounts for 17 percent of weapons released since operations began, and the F-15 for 27 percent.
Congressional members, like Rep. Martha McSally, R-Rhode Island, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who continuously tout the A-10's unique abilities,y in various theaters, can point to its performance against ISIS as evidence that it remains relevant and effective, flying 27 percent of the sorties against ISIS, coming in third for most Air Force strike sorties flown, according to AFCENT data says.
McSally, a retired colonel and former A-10 pilot, and her counterparts hone the gunship's performance and vow the aircraft — set to begin retirement as early as 2018 — will remain "until we know without a doubt we can replace their capabilities," McSally said in January.
The A-10 comes in fourth with sorties, at 16 percent.
With such limited numbers quantities of the F-22 in the AOR, the Raptor flies far fewer sorties, and drops much less ordnance, than the other platforms.
Air Force's total inventory, the Raptor by no coincidence flies and strikes the least from all the aircraft in the AOR.
Air Force officials claim But the flight time and aircraft platform shouldn’t overshadow that the air campaign against ISIS has been one of the most precise air wars in history, officials have said, largely in thanks in large part to precision-guided weapons, which exemplify the effect of hitting more strategic targets.
"Daesh doesn't actually mass itself where you could actually even use [non-precision weapons]. ... Tthat kind of tactic, and that's a tactic that is really not effective for the fight we're actually executing today," Brown, the head of AFCENT, said on Feb. 19, using the Pentagon's alternative name for the Islamic State group.
A pair of Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq early in September 2014 after conducting airstrikes in Syria.
Photo Credit: SrA Matthew Bruch/Air Forces Central Command
But a March 19 attack on buildings at the University of Mosul in Iraq, an ISIS headquarters, may have killed dozens of civilians in addition to the militants targeted, according to airwars.org. The United Kingdom-based organization monitors international airstrikes against the Islamic State and other groups in Iraq and Syria, and assesses claims of civilian casualties.
The group asserts that the Pentagon has badly underestimated the number of civilian casualties resulting from the Inherent Resolve air campaign.
"We’re continually looking at our processes and trying to determine the most effective way to hit the enemy with minimal impact on civilians," Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for CENTCOM, said in January. "The low numbers are a testament to our aviators, mission planners…and intelligence analysts.," Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for CENTCOM, precedingly said on Jan. 22.
"This is the most precise air campaign in history," Ryder continued, and "there is a very detailed process that we go through to plan these targets."
Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East, Europe and Pacific for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.