The Iraqi Air Force on Friday conducted its first strikes inside Syria, hitting ISIS targets in the area of Abu Kamal in response to that group’s attacks inside Iraq. Iraqi F-16IQs conducted “good strikes” on ISIS facilities, which had been linked to the planning of attacks in Baghdad and the rural area of Rutbah. Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Iraq told the US-led coalition about the strike in advance, and the US helped provide intelligence. However, Iraq operates outside of the US Combined Air Operations Center Air Tasking Order and conducted the strikes independently. The Iraqi government also notified the Syrian government about the strikes in advance, Davis said. The Iraqi government was “justifiably interested” in the ISIS targets, and the strike was “valid” and supported by the US, Davis said. Iraq currently has 14 US-supplied F-16s, which are conducting strikes daily.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.