Operations

Eight years of Operation Shader: The UK's mission against IS

Operation Shader is the UK's military contribution to the defeat of so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and has been running since 2014. 

On 9 August 2014, the Royal Air Force C-130s began a series of humanitarian air aid drops onto Mount Sinjar in Northern Iraq.

The air drops were ordered following the genocide of the Yazidi people and other ethnic minorities by IS, also known as Daesh, in Northern Iraq, which had led to these people fleeing onto the mountainside to escape the terror group. 

With the conclusion of the aid drops the operation swiftly became the UK element in the US-led coalition that began the campaign against IS.

The first air strike took place on 30 September 2015. Behind the US, the UK is the second-largest contributor to the operation.

In 2015, Typhoon aircraft joined the operation to provide close air support to the coalition forces on the ground, with Voyagers providing refuelling to the aircraft.

The Atlas and Hercules aircrafts moved personnel and kit around the joint operating area, with Tornado jets involved from the start until their retirement in 2019.

Britain's F-35 stealth jets have also flown missions as part of Op Shader and, more recently, F-35s struck at Daesh from HMS Queen Elizabeth as she headed through the Mediterranean bound for the Indo-Pacific.

The UK has flown more than 8,000 sorties providing strikes, surveillance and reconnaissance, air-to-air refuelling and transport.

Since Op Shader began, the RAF has conducted in excess of 1,000 airstrikes over Iraq and Syria, using more than 4,300 weapons launched from Tornado, Typhoon and Reaper aircraft.

At the end of last year, more than 1,000 UK personnel were involved in Op Shader.

RAF HERCULES TAKE OFF OP SHADER WAVE close raf akrotiri 190521 CREDIT MOD.jpg
An RAF C-130 Hercules taking off from RAF Akrotiri as part of Op Shader (Picture: MOD).

Based out of Cyprus, the RAF has played a key role throughout, with combat aircraft flying from RAF Akrotiri.

The UK has trained more than 120,000 Iraqi security forces personnel in subjects including infantry skills, combat medicine, countering IEDs and professional military education.

Even with some of the aircraft operating on Op Shader having changed, the objective of defeating Daesh and restoring peace and stability in the region remains, so the operation continues.