Britain's Royal Air Force to bomb Syria 'with care'

Britain's Royal Air Force to bomb Syria 'with care'
Analysis: The UK's ministry of defence has blogged outlining - with cold logic and traditional British reserve - how RAF jets will 'minimise civilian casualties' during their bombing of Syria.
3 min read
04 December, 2015
UK jets bombed targets in Syria on Wednesday night [Getty]

On Wednesday, UK members of parliament took turns to make their case for and against war in Syria.

A motion billed by the Conservative government was debated in parliament about whether to extend UK air raids to Islamic State group targets in Syria.

After nearly 11 hours of consideration, a large number of opposition MPs voted with the government, ensuring the expansion of military action.

Hours later, British jets returned to base in Cyprus having taken part in the Royal Air Force's first bombing mission on the IS-run Omar oil fields in Syria.

PR and propaganda

UK public opinion appears firmly against military action in Syria, and social media erupted in disgust at the thought of British bombs killing civilians.

     UK public opinion appears firmly against military action in Syria

Videos flooded newsfeeds showing the impact of bombings in Syria - flattened towns, dismembered bodies and screaming children.

Yet these videos tell only part of the story of Syria's war, which has killed over 250,000 people, mostly civilians.

Most have fallen victim to the Syrian regime's crude barrel bombing campaign against residential areas.

UK parliamentarians were under no illusions that British bombs will also kill civilians. However, they insist that the highly trained, professional nature of British pilots and planners will ensure the death toll is kept to a minimum.

A day after the UK's first payload was dropped on Syria, the ministry of defence released a blog, entitled Preventing civilian casualties and coordinating strike action - what you need to know.

'Pinpoint accuracy'
The blog's intention appears to be distinguishing between the RAF's "pinpoint" strikes and the Syrian regime's tactic of blanket bombing. 

"While military operations are never without risk, UK forces strike for the highest level of accuracy," the blog reads coldly.

"That is why the RAF uses precise, low collateral weapons systems supported by thorough intelligence."

The ministry claims that there have been "no reports of civilian deaths" after a year of UK bombing in Iraq.

RAF Tornado jets and Reaper drones have carried out 1,632 sorties in Iraq and 380 "successful strikes".

     The ministry claims that there have been 'no reports of civilian deaths' after a year of UK bombing in Iraq

Obviously, this is almost impossible to verify given the chaos that has been inflicted upon Iraq in the years since the UK and US-led invasion in 2003.

But this has been no "shock-and-awe", and it would be fair to say that the RAF has not repeated the Syrian airforce's carnage inflicted on market places, hospitals and bakeries in Idlib, Aleppo and Douma.

The secret to the RAF's success - the ministry claims - has been the pride of the British armouries - the terrifyingly named Brimstone missiles.

"The UK's Brimstone missile - which even the US don't possess - are effective on both static and moving targets and offer pin-point accuracy," says the military's blogger.

The missile, based on the US' Hellfire missile, is fitted with small warheads to minimise damage outside the "target zone" to avoid civilian casualties, however their are still questions about their effectiveness - and whether or not they even work properly with the flagship Typhoon aircraft.

It said that the precise nature of the weapons used, and the skills of RAF personnel have helped Iraqi security forces to retake 30 percent of IS territory in Iraq.

"The coalition has implemented these measures for aircraft operating in Syria," the blog signs off.

"All our missions over Syria will be subject to the same arrangement."