CENTCOM videos show airstrikes on Islamic State artillery, convoy

US Central Command (CENTCOM) released two videos of two of the three airstrikes by F/A-18 Hornets and drones (presumably Predators or Reapers) reported to have taken place yesterday in northern Iraq against the Islamic State. Yesterday, the US military said it struck a “mobile artillery piece,” and “a stationary ISIL [Islamic State] convoy of seven vehicles and a mortar position” all near Irbil , the capital of Kurdistan.

In the first video, above, the gun camera video shows what appears to be a towed artillery piece just before it is struck. The above video certainly isn’t showing mortar positions or an Islamic State convoy. And it also isn’t showing mobile artillery, also known as self-propelled artillery. Either Admiral Kirby, the Pentagon briefer, and CENTCOM misidentified the type of artillery being hit, or there was another strike that wasn’t reported. The former is more likely.

The video below shows what appears to be strike strike on the “stationary” Islamic State convoy; two vehicles are parked on a road and about a dozen fighters appear to be standing off to the side.

Video of the strike on the mortar position was not provided by CENTCOM.

For more information on the US’ renewed military involvement in Iraq, see Threat Matrix reports, Obama authorizes limited airstrikes to protect US personnel in Irbil and US begins airstrikes against Islamic State near Irbil.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • blert says:

    Sloppy Pentagon spokesman:
    M109 howitzers would always be termed self-propelled artillery in military circles.
    When an M198 howitzer is ‘limbered’ — as in being towed by a truck — the howitzer would commonly be referred to as ‘mobile.’ This type of terminology distinction is largely restricted to air forces — as in describing a target’s status when hit. It’s always relevant to air forces whether a target is ‘fixed’ or mobile.
    No US Army officer would be inclined to use such phrasing. In the US Army, modern artillery is either “towed” or “self-propelled.”
    (And both would be termed highly mobile. The latest howitzer, M777, is commonly flown into action. How’s that for mobility?)
    When an M198 howitzer is ‘unlimbered’ — as in fully set up to fire ammo (regular way) — the usual term would be, simply, an ‘artillery position’ with no other qualifier.
    There actually is a category of immobile artillery — truly fixed for all time — stuff like the fictive Guns of Navarone. These would usually be termed ‘coastal guns.’ All of them now reside solely in history books. So the meaning of these terms has shifted a bit from WWII.
    I find it significant that the Pentagon spokesman dared not mention that the howitzer in question was certainly an M198, ‘re-purposed’ by ISIS from the Iraqi army.
    52 – 1 = 51
    The new and revised count of M198 howitzers in ISIL’s possession.
    All of these howitzers must be destroyed ASAP. They are enough, by themselves, to entirely destroy Kurdistan. The Kurds have no counter — battery capability at all.
    They’re even short on small arms.
    It is imperative that The Kurds receive American weapons — and quickly, too.
    American weapons are designed by geniuses to be used by idiots. ISIS will figure out how to use GPS enhanced howitzers in very short order. Baghdad would be hapless once ISIS opens up an artillery offensive. Shi’ite militias don’t know how to fire M198 howitzers.

  • Mike E says:

    Until this is increased in tempo 50 fold it is symbolic nothing. This should have been happening six months ago.

  • Kent Gatewood says:

    Are we flying Reapers out of an Iraqi airfield?

  • Daniel Lopez says:

    You’re welcome.
    (from the guy who sent you the link to the video and mentioned the artillery appeared “towed”)

  • Mike says:

    Maybe a little more would result inat least some “shock and awe”

  • Conor Pratt says:

    Reportedly Predator/Reaper drones are being deployed from an airstrip near Erbil International Airport: //www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/07/11/233126/expansion-of-secret-facility-in.html.
    There might also be some flights unmanned or otherwise out of Turkey under greater secrecy, whether from Incirlik Air Base or Turkish Air Force installations closer to Iraq, though if so probably only for surveillance and/or transport to Arbil and Baghdad. I haven’t been able to quickly find any reports claiming attack flights out of Turkey.

    I don’t think it’s “symbolic nothing” to enable the Kurds to retake Makhmur and Gwer and prevent ISIS from imminently threatening Erbil, nor to destroy ISIS units attacking refugees on Mount Sinjar.
    But of course the US air operations aren’t nearly sufficient to degrade ISIS on a strategic scale and they’re not currently intended to be.

    Without the imminent threat of an adversary as strong as ISIS and its current allies of mutual convenience, probably any Shia-led central government of Iraq (and certainly the current / possibly continuing one under Maliki) won’t have sufficient incentive to grant meaningfully greater devolution of powers to the Sunni-majority provinces and overall fairer treatment of Sunnis by the state, which I think the US correctly assesses is the only path toward ending constant sectarian conflict in the long term.

    To be sure ISIS itself entails many true believers and/or warlords who will never be reconciled within Iraq, Syria, or the international community generally, and can only be addressed through force of arms.
    But a broader interconfessional political settlement is also needed and for now that means not eliminating ISIS as a dire threat but also not letting them overrun Baghdad or the KRG.

    Of course this is an increasingly dangerous gambit as ISIS continues to advance and consolidate elsewhere in the meantime.
    And given that yesterday Maliki signaled an apparent determination to remain in power even at the cost of deploying personally-loyal ISF units against other factions, the US will soon have to figure out whether the prime minister and his inner circle can be convinced to retire, or eliminated without sparking a broader military power struggle, or whether the US just has to accept a continuation of the deeply-flawed Maliki government and proceed with a broader air offensive on ISIS as it’s the more imminent danger to the US/allies than endless sectarian bloodshed in Iraq per se.

  • SomeGuy says:

    Should we target M198’s actively being used by ISIS…? YES.
    Should we target all M198’s the currently have..? NO. This is where I disagree with Blert.
    Operating that system is logistically intensive for ISIS and dangerous for the operators. It’s not a push button system, and while I don’t doubt they have the talent to lay a howitzer and computer hasty firing data, the ammunition is the real problem for them. Matching the right round, to the right propellant, to the right fuse…and getting enough of those 95lbs shells, 35lbs of propellant and fuses to the gun locations for a sustained operation is taxing for even our Army.
    Once there, properly seating each round and computing firing data without MET, MVV data, or refined target grid means you will fire a lot of adjusting rounds before the TGT is hit. Not a problem if you’re simply shelling a city, but ammo intensive if you are trying to degrade a Kurdish or IA military unit/asset.
    In a hasty retreat it will be one of the first systems they abandon. As long as it’s not being aimed and shot, we are better off letting it get recaptured by friendly forces for later use. Plus any TGT shot past 17km will dramatically increase the # of guns down for simple maintenance issues they cannot support fixing.

  • blert says:

    ISIS fired a mere handful of sloppy ranging rounds — and the Kurds fled en masse — taking the kids with them.
    These assets are not being used to hit hardened targets.
    They are being used against major villages on up to cities.
    As long as ISIS has them ready for photo-ops… they work in the same manner as an un-fired ICBM.
    No civilian is going to hang around to prove your points.
    BTW, at over 16,000 pounds, M198s are not designed for road stealth.

  • blert says:

    IMHO the US Government has already figured out that al-Maliki HAS TO GO. Period. Stop.
    He’s the Klink in Baghdad’s defense.
    The US Army has long been convinced that he can’t be worked around.
    He’s the primary reason Barry is responding so minimally.
    Strangely, Iran, America and Sistani, the Kurds and the Sunnis all want al-Maliki to go.
    Al-Maliki wants to point to the vote he obtained for his faction before the roof fell in on him — as THE reason why he should be allowed to rule. (continue to milk the state treasury and burn all other factions)
    It’s pretty much out in the open: al-Maliki anointed Shia generals (his crew) to command the northern divisions of the Iraqi army — loaded to the rafters with Sunnis and Kurds… and ghosts.
    These ‘ghosts’ drew fat pay — which was ‘rebated’ to their divisional commander’s accounts — thence back to Baghdad — and al-Maliki.
    There have been no accounts from ex-soldiers that have not gone off on the huge number of ghost soldiers across their divisions. No-one can be that surprised. This manner of corruption is standard fare in the Third World.
    Naturally, such ‘generals’ are fakes, and they know it most of all. The slightest pressure of command and they’re on the helicopter out of town!
    Famously Benedict Arnold sold out George Washington and the revolutionary fort at West Point on the Hudson river. His treason almost worked.
    [ He’d given the British a military map of the garrison and all of the particulars to enable them to walk right in and take it, easy. These materials were snagged by revolutionaries just in the nick of time. These were the proofs that finally brought George Washington around to understand that his best buddy was setting him up for a British noose. Washington was brought up to West Point by Arnold for the express purpose of getting the British to capture and hang him.]
    There is every reason to bet that some of the commanding generals pulled a Benedict Arnold… That is, they gave up critical intel to the opfor. It’s the only viable reason for their timely ‘withdrawal’ BEFORE things got hot and heavy.
    The realization that the opfor had been given the keys to the city caused all of the subordinate field commanders to bail out in turn.
    The above sequence is by far the most likely explanation for the overnight collapse of Mosul.
    Tied into all of this was permitting the huge weapons depot to fall into enemy hands. No spiked guns, no demolitions of any kind. In any army, such actions are SOP during even the fastest retreats.
    The entire affair smells.
    The Iraqi army basically gifted these assets to ISIS. In all my days, I’ve never heard of any event like it with any army at any point in recorded history. No wonder DC is stunned.

  • Knighthawk says:

    At least two months late, though I suppose marginally better than nothing, but I get the sense atm this is too little way way too late. Two months ago (or earlier as requested by IA) these pin pricks might have caused some disruption, or some second thoughts to go on (including among the IA’s moral), not so sure that’s the case now, until as mentioned by others already the tempo is upped at least a couple notches.

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    Two vehicles are a convoy. Three terrorists are a compound. Fighting war by the drop.

  • Jordan says:

    These types of airings are to give the American public some sort of feel-good emotional solace in order to shield them from the reality that airstrikes are pretty much useless to stop the Islamic State. At most, they act as a speedbump – at worst, they galvanize even more support from those disposed to take up arms. Short of tens of thousands of American troops on the ground who are prepared to be beheaded, summarily executed if captured, and a public willing to watch it all on video for years, nothing will change and the current will run its course.

  • Marcus says:

    Ghost soldiers, kickback, & corruption is all fun and games until the shooting starts.
    I have never seen a scenario, where ghost soldiers has ever worked out.

  • Marcus says:

    “No wonder DC is stunned.”
    Whatever Bush did to keep Maliki in line Obama did not do.
    It could be exactly as you said (and you make good arguments, which I always read) and Obama still bears a lot of responsibility.
    Obama’s public pronouncements on Iraq to the world (ISIS was listening obviously) had the same effect as a professor tapping on the desk as he is lecturing.

  • wallbangr says:

    Good info, @blert and @SomeGuy. Thanks

  • Nernst says:

    A pinprick but a start. Airpower cant defeat ISIS outright but I think in this case it can degrade their advantage over the others that want to defeat them on the ground. So a campaign to steadily target their tanks, AAA, artillery, APC’s, and heavy trucks. Next would be take out appropriate money making oil transport infrastructure such as pipelines and pumping facilities. Drones with hellfires and SDB’s and aircraft with JDAMS


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