As the battle for Mosul, Iraq, entered its final stage and the fight for Raqqa in Syria heated up, the number of weapons released by coalition aircraft against the Islamic State last month reached new records.
The coalition dropped at least 4,848 bombs as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in June, an 11 percent increase over the previous month's record of 4,374 weapons released, according to statistics posted online Monday by U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
In the first half of 2017, the coalition released at least 23,413 weapons, putting it on track to easily eclipse the 30,743 bombs dropped in all of 2016, and the 28,696 released throughout 2015.
In a summary accompanying the statistics, AFCENT said most weapons released were in support of allied ground forces, such as the Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian rebels, fighting for control of West Mosul and Raqqa.
The coalition also targeted ISIS facilities such as 14 car bomb factories, propaganda outlets, and petroleum production facilities such as wellheads, pumps, storage facilities, tanker trucks and refineries, the summary said, and reduced ISIS' oil refinery capability by more than 75 percent.
"Throughout June, precise coalition airstrikes were instrumental in helping Iraqi Security Forces squeeze ISIS holdouts into a one-square kilometer area of West Mosul's old city by month's end," the summary said. "Despite the dense urban terrain, trapped civilians and barbaric ISIS tactics using civilians as human shields, air planners and aircrews went to incredible lengths to minimize harm to civilians, to include ensuring that every munition delivered was precision-guided and coordinated closely with coalition advisers and ISF."
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul Sunday to celebrate victory over ISIS with Iraqi troops, as the last fighting waged in West Mosul. On Monday, the coalition congratulated the ISF for placing Mosul "now firmly under their control," though officials cautioned that explosive devices still must be cleared and some ISIS fighters may still be in hiding.
In Afghanistan, the coalition released 389 weapons in June — the second-highest monthly total of 2017, behind only April's total of 460. Afghanistan airstrikes in recent months have been well above the monthly pace set in 2015 and 2016, which never went higher than the 205 weapons released last October. The coalition has increased its airstrikes in recent months as it has targeted the affiliate group ISIS-Khorasan.
In addition, last month AFCENT said this is the first spring fighting season since former President Obama expanded U.S. forces' authority to conduct airstrikes for terrain and route denial, as well as for psychological effect.
However, the statistics only account for weapons released by 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 flying in the area fall under CFACC control. Strikes conducted by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the Army are also not included in AFCENT statistics.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.