RAF Typhoon
Op Shader

Operation Shader: All You Need To Know About Britain's Fight Against IS

Everything you need to know about the mission against so-called Islamic State.

RAF Typhoon

Operation Shader is the operational code name used for the UK contribution to the US-led mission against so-called Islamic State.

The final towns and cities once held by the militant group were liberated last month, but Operation Shader will continue with IS not being completely defeated as an organisation.

The mission has been running for more than four years, beginning in September 2014 over Iraq when the Royal Air Force flew its first combat sorties of the operation.

Air strikes over Syria were first launched the following year, following approval from the British Government.

The UK is the second largest contributor behind the US, with jets flying missions from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

Since Op Shader began, the RAF has conducted more than a thousand air strikes over Iraq and Syria, using more than 4,300 weapons launched from Tornado, Typhoon and Reaper aircraft.

The RAF carried out its 1,000th air strike against IS, also known as Daesh, in September 2017.

History of Operation Shader

The British operation against so-called Islamic State began in Iraq on 26 September 2014 following a formal request for assistance by the Iraqi government.

In October 2014, the UK operation extended also to Syria, where the Royal Air Force conducted several surveillance flights. MQ-9 Reaper drones based in Cyprus were responsible for 30% of aerial surveillance over Syria.

Tornado jets have been involved since the beginning of the mission. Typhoon aircraft joined the operation in late 2015, when Parliament voted to extend the air campaign against Daesh to Syria.

The Typhoon, which is to be upgraded as part of a £2 billion investment over the next decade, will become the UK's sole frontline jet with the Tornado's retirement.

In September 2017, the RAF carried out their 1000th air strike against Daesh targets.

At the same time, then-Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced an Iraq and Syria Operational Service Medal as part of his visit to Iraq on the eve of Operation Shader’s three year anniversary.

A RAF Typhoon refuels on Operation Shader (Picture: MOD).
An RAF Typhoon refuels on Operation Shader (Picture: MOD).

In 2018, the coalition launched Operation Roundup to clear remains of the terror group in Syria.

Currently, tri-service personnel are manning roles with the Global Coalition's headquarters throughout the Middle-East, including in Baghdad where there are UK advisors working alongside Iraqi military personnel in the Iraqi Operational Command.

On Monday, the Defence Secretary confirmed that IS has not been completely defeated, and that there is an "ongoing threat" from the militants, but that all areas once occupied by Daesh in Iraq and Syria have been liberated.

How many Armed Forces personnel have been deployed?

Personnel from across the tri-services are involved in Op Shader.

Royal Air Force

The majority of UK personnel have come from the RAF.

In 2014/15 a total of 1,950 RAF personnel were deployed, with the number growing each year. By 2017/18, 2,230 RAF personnel were involved in Op Shader.

British Army

The number of British Army personnel involved in the mission against IS has steadily grown since the beginning of the operation.

In 2014/15 there were 500 of them, but by 2017/18 it had almost quadrupled with a total of 1,920 Army personnel involved in Op Shader.

Royal Navy

In 2014/15 a total of 60 Royal Navy personnel took part in Operation Shader, rising to 80 members of the Royal Navy being involved by 2017/18.

The UK has trained more than 89,000 Iraqi forces, including more than 13,000 Kurdish Peshmerga, in weapons maintenance, counter IED, medical and engineering skills.

Around 1,100 British personnel are involved in supporting counter-IS operations in the region, including 400 in Iraq supporting training.

Kurdish Peshmerga have been provided with 40 heavy machine guns, more than a million rounds of ammunition and £600,000 of equipment.

There are also personnel from across the tri-services deployed with the Global Coalition's headquarters across the Middle East.

How many militants have died from Op Shader air strikes?

RAF air strikes in Iraq and Syria killed and injured an estimated 4,315 enemies with just one civilian fatality, according to estimated figures released by the Ministry of Defence.

They suggest that of the 4,315 combatants targeted, 4,013 were reported to have been killed (93%) while 302 (7%) survived with injuries.

In total, 75% of those estimated to have been killed or injured were in Iraq and 25% in Syria.

Comparing this to other nations, the United States military has revealed at least 1,257 civilians died as a result of 33,921 US-led coalition airstrikes between August 2014 and January 2019.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) also said it was "possible" that as many as 18 civilians were unintentionally killed during airstrikes over Iraq.

The one confirmed civilian fatality as a result of RAF air strikes came during a strike to engage three Daesh fighters in Raqqa.

The civilian was on a motorbike and crossed into the strike as it was happening.