NOVEMBER 7. 2016, AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS) – The U.S.-led Coalition tasked with degrading and defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant successfully executed a large-scale, multinational strike on a weapons facility in Al Haditha, Iraq, Oct. 31.
The strike package achieved the functional destruction of a Desert Storm-era weapons facility that ISIL forces actively used to store artillery and ammunition as well as manufacture improvised explosive devices and vehicle-borne IEDs.
The mission served as a capstone demonstration of the interoperability, synergy and multinational partnership boasted by the coalition. The U.S., United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Australia, Belgium and Jordan each contributed assets and aircraft in the strike package.
“The efforts to degrade and defeat (ISIL) are not confined to the responsibility of a single nation,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, the U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander. “The fight to defeat this organization is a coalition effort and it takes a coalition force to achieve that end state. This strike showcased the cumulative efforts of a diverse coalition dedicated toward a singular objective.”
The package included a B-52 Stratofortress, Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s, French Air Force Dassault Rafales, Royal Danish Air Force F-16s, Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornets, Belgian Air Force F-16s and Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s.
In total, 20 strike and bomber aircraft effectively destroyed 38 specified targets with a combination of air-launched cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions.
The air tasking order coordination chief and lead planning officer for the weapons facility strike, Capt. Jarred Thorley, said that the planning phase for a multinational strike package is critical.
“Every nation brings their own specific tactics, techniques and procedures to the table and we have to meld those together to create a successful strike package,” Thorley said. “We have to ensure everyone is looking at the same picture.”
De-conflicting a compressed and congested airspace and communicating across multi-national aircraft platforms also served as a crucial component of the pre-planning process.
“The way I like to think about it is like ballet,” Thorley said. “Every piece has to be in the right place at the right time. We have to get it right at ground level in order for our operators to execute their mission safely.”
The flexibility of coordinating and directing a massive air operation from a singular location between several nations is a testament to the capabilities employed by the coalition, said a U.K. liaison officer involved in the planning of the airstrike package.
“Directing a large scale strike like this from one centralized location with a range of aircraft from throughout the region is impressive,” he said. “It says something that we are able to combine all these different nations with different equipment, training, and perspectives and execute a mission like this not in a controlled exercise but in a real-world operation.”
This strike showcased a real deterrence for our adversaries, Thorley added.
“This shows (ISIL) that they cannot win going forward,” Thorley said. “The force dedicated to their defeat is too large and united. We have tremendous partners and we leverage the coalition capability every day.”
The strike was conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria and the wider international community.