back to article RAF Reaper drone was involved in botched US Syria airstrike

A British Reaper drone was part of the US airstrike that killed 62 Syrian government soldiers on Saturday, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed. A terse statement from the Ministry said the UK “participated in the recent coalition air strike in Syria, south of Dayr az Zawr”, adding: “The UK would not intentionally target …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    "Non Enemy Troops"

    That depends whom do you ask.

    Based on UK and USA declared intentions and allegiances in this war, that may or may not be the case.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Non Enemy Troops"

      We should adopt a similarly loose definition of "terrorist" as Al Asshat uses. In my book, dropping barrel bombs on homes and hospitals and using chlorine gas against civilians is good enough cause to consider you a terrorist. I certainly won't lose much sleep over a few more "accidents" like this one.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: "Non Enemy Troops"

        Who told you only Assad uses Barrel Bombs?

        I cannot be arsed to look it up now, there was a cute photo-essay in the Graunidad showing opposition weapons workshop where they were welding propane gas bottles to the solid fuel rocket engine off a Grad missile. Cute. Stunningly cute. Average range under 1km. Precision - utterly useless for any military use. Now, lobbing it into the middle of the Sunday market, bonus points if the market is in a Shia, Allavite or Kurd village, that is an entirely different story. But you know, the celebrated freedom fighters do not do that. At least so we claim (unless a clueless journo catches them when they are doing it and does not know what picture did he take).

        I am not going to elaborate on what exactly can you put in a gas bottle if you do not cut the head off (so you can fill it with solid explosives). If you leave as a "gas bottle" it opens a ... err... a whole universe of opportunities for terminating the neighbours.

        By the way - there is f*** all way to distinguish between a barrel bomb and one of these. The effect is the same. If a plane is in the vicinity, the plane is blamed, though quite often it has nothing to do with that - it is just the opposition groups settling scores and blaming Assad (not that he does not do it - he nowdays has better weapons courtesy of his Russian and Iran friends).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Barrel Bombs vs Precision Guided 500lb Bomb

          When you're on the ground, I doubt very much that you care what type of bomb is falling on your head.

          1. JaitcH
            WTF?

            Re: Barrel Bombs vs Precision Guided 500lb Bomb

            If by 'Precision Guided 500lb Bomb' you are referring to laser guided, more accurately laser marked target bombs, they are only as accurate as their markers.

            The target is identified by the laser carrying marker being identified using a 4-digit number entered by the pilot. This number is conveyed to the bomber pilot who dials it in to the ''Precision Guided 500lb Bomb". The bomb ignores all other 4-digit identifiers.

            The alternative can be infra-red markers placed around/near by ground based accomplices OR a laser target marking system. These are often referred to as Ground Laser Target Designator (GLTD) and are used in conjunction with Paveway bombs and Hellfire missiles.

            The transmitted marker is from a Nd:YAG laser with a wavelength of 1.064 micrometres (3.93701e-5 inches) and a pulse energy energy of up to 80 Millijoules (0.0010 watt seconds). They are good for -32 degrees C to +45 degrees C operation.

            Unaligned nations are using IR receivers that decode the marker signal and transmit the codes, in real time, to alternative IR decoy markers which then become the target for the incoming weapons, thereby rendering the 'Precision Guided 500lb Bomb' less ineffective.

            So much for 'precision'.

            1. DavCrav Silver badge

              Re: Barrel Bombs vs Precision Guided 500lb Bomb

              "If by 'Precision Guided 500lb Bomb' you are referring to laser guided, more accurately laser marked target bombs, they are only as accurate as their markers.

              The target is identified by the laser carrying marker being identified using a 4-digit number entered by the pilot. This number is conveyed to the bomber pilot who dials it in to the ''Precision Guided 500lb Bomb". The bomb ignores all other 4-digit identifiers.

              The alternative can be infra-red markers placed around/near by ground based accomplices OR a laser target marking system. These are often referred to as Ground Laser Target Designator (GLTD) and are used in conjunction with Paveway bombs and Hellfire missiles.

              The transmitted marker is from a Nd:YAG laser with a wavelength of 1.064 micrometres (3.93701e-5 inches) and a pulse energy energy of up to 80 Millijoules (0.0010 watt seconds). They are good for -32 degrees C to +45 degrees C operation.

              Unaligned nations are using IR receivers that decode the marker signal and transmit the codes, in real time, to alternative IR decoy markers which then become the target for the incoming weapons, thereby rendering the 'Precision Guided 500lb Bomb' less ineffective.

              So much for 'precision'."

              I can't tell whether I've just read a Wikipedia article or an extract from a Tom Clancy novel.

              1. Triggerfish

                Re: Barrel Bombs vs Precision Guided 500lb Bomb

                I still struggle with the idea of the splash damage from a 500lb bomb being counted as a precision device when used in populated areas.

            2. iainr

              Re: Barrel Bombs vs Precision Guided 500lb Bomb

              You're muddling accuracy and precision which are two different concepts. In this case precision refers to the size of target you are aiming to hit, accuracy refers to how close you come to hitting the target. Blowing up a single building in a city is a precision strike, blowing up the wrong building is still a precision strike, just not an accurate one and carpet bombing a city to blow up a building would not be a precision strike but if all the bombs fall within the target zone it would be an accurate attack.

              and I'd have thought that decoys would render "the 'Precision Guided 500lb Bomb' less" EFFECTIVE, unless the defending forces are particularly suicidal.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Barrel Bombs vs Precision Guided 500lb Bomb

                Which takes us back to the original post.

                If a bomb is falling on your head, you won't care if it's a barrel bomb, a mis-aimed "precision" bomb or any other kind of bomb.

                I'm not sure which is worse, those who deliberately carpet bomb an area or those who just don't seem to care who they kill as long as they hit their primary target.

                Far too often the septics have just shrugged and gone "Oops! Sorry, didn't mean to hit that school next door. But hey, at least we killed our target!".

            3. Tom Paine Silver badge

              Re: Barrel Bombs vs Precision Guided 500lb Bomb

              Interesting, got a link for that?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Barrel Bombs vs Precision Guided 500lb Bomb

            bit like the Billy Connolly sketch about Nuclear disarmament "because conventional weapons are so nice"

          3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Barrel Bombs vs Precision Guided 500lb Bomb

            Bombs in cars or bombs from the sky,

            What's the difference when the innocent die.

            1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

              Re: Barrel Bombs vs Precision Guided 500lb Bomb

              > What's the difference when the innocent die.

              Assad's soldiers are not "innocent".

        2. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: "Non Enemy Troops"

          welding propane gas bottles to the solid fuel rocket engine

          And they're able to do this more than once?

        3. thames

          Re: "Non Enemy Troops"

          @Voland's right hand - "I cannot be arsed to look it up now, there was a cute photo-essay in the Graunidad showing opposition weapons workshop where they were welding propane gas bottles to the solid fuel rocket engine off a Grad missile.

          I suspect that you are mixing these up with "Hell Cannon". They are large high capacity bombs launched from home made mortars. There are loads of "hell cannon" videos on YouTube if you want to see them. The western allied FSA affiliated rebels fire them off in the general direction of "anywhere we don't control", with little idea of what is on the ground where they will land.

          The shells seem to be typically made from large propane gas cylinders with fins welded on the back (so the fuse can operate when it lands), but the hell cannon themselves are all different, so there's no specific size or range they have. Accuracy of course is unimportant, since they don't usually have any clue of what is off in that direction other than that it's territory that they don't control. The crude aerodynamics of the shells would preclude accurate targeting anyway. They are sometimes used in the countryside against small villages, but most seem to be used in large cities such as Aleppo, because that's where the groups that use them are concentrated.

          As for "barrel bombs" they have been around for decades. I think they got their name because the ones the Israelis used in one of their early wars were made from actual barrels. During the Balkan wars a couple of decades ago, they made them from water heaters. I believe the early Syrian government civil war ones were made from propane cylinders (like hell cannon shells), but the current ones seem to be constructed from scratch in factories. They're just normal (but cheap) bombs in that sense.

          The Iraqi government reportedly chucks them all over IS controlled cities in Iraq, but of course that doesn't tick the right foreign policy guidance boxes so the media isn't inclined to report on it much.

        4. Tom Paine Silver badge

          Re: "Non Enemy Troops"

          You can certainly identify barrel bombs with a high confidence if you've seen the helicopters dropping them.

        5. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Re: "Non Enemy Troops"

          > Who told you only Assad uses Barrel Bombs?

          He didn't say "only".

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: "Non Enemy Troops"

      “The UK would not intentionally target Syrian military units.”

      Really? Nearly everyone else does!

  2. El_Fev

    Ah well

    with a bit of luck it will make up for those rebels that the Russians bombed instead of hitting ISIS

  3. NotWorkAdmin

    "US Led Strike"

    The lesson would appear to be we should rely on our own intel. I seem to recall there is precedent. A quote I heard from WW2 I heard just recently went along the lines of:

    When the British shoot, the Germans duck.

    When the Germans shoot the British duck.

    But when the Americans shoot, everyone ducks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "US Led Strike"

      As the Bard of Barking would have it:

      " I don't think we can defeat no Axis of Evil

      By putting 'smart bombs' in the hands of dumb people"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: "US Led Strike"

      They have form in this sort of thing, just ask the residents of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

  4. Tubz
    Mushroom

    So we can expect 62 claims for compensation and when the bill is passed back to Uncle Sam, they will close the doors and tell MOD they are not responsible and UK taxpayer will pickup the bill. Time told US Of Ass to go FK themselves and look for other partners !

  5. asdf Silver badge

    tin foil hat alert

    Its mostly been under the radar but it is pretty obvious the DoD and military brass in general have no interest in Kerry's diplomacy (or being strung along by Assad and the Russians stalling for time depending on your point of view). They probably didn't derail things on purpose but hard to imagine they honestly gave much of a crap about the end results of this raid. They are probably just glad they didn't "accidentally" bomb another Doctor's without Borders hospital.

  6. Johan Bastiaansen

    Most unfortunate

    We can question the ethical standards of our allies (technically they are not), but such is the nature of compromise.

    This will set back a diplomatic solution, if it doesn't make it impossible.

    Why were we carrying out this airstrike so deep in Syrian territory, with Syrian military in close proximity, just days after the agreement? Surely the Russians were in a better position to deal with this as they probably have a direct com link with these Syrians.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Most unfortunate

      >Why were we carrying out this airstrike so deep in Syrian territory, with Syrian military in close proximity, just days after the agreement?

      Because the UN exists solely for diplomats and dictators to party in the Big Apple?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Most unfortunate

      This will set back a diplomatic solution, if it doesn't make it impossible.

      I very much doubt that Assad will be either more or less inclined to some forced compromise by virtue of sixty odd casualties on his side.

      Very unfortunate for those on the receiving end, but the "coalition" has been causing collateral damage across much of south central Asia for over a decade, without apparently seeing any need for changing its ways.

  7. asdf Silver badge

    funny we still refer to the whole thing as Syria

    The amazing part is not that British and French carved up nation states in that part of the world are finally falling apart before our eyes but that they have lasted so long. Probably credit Western energy companies for that.

  8. x 7

    next time just bomb Assad and claim it as another "error"

    Soonest we get rid of him, the soonest a solution becomes possible

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Soonest we get rid of him, the soonest a solution becomes possible"

      That's what they thought when they got rid of Gaddafi.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, which "nice" warlord is going to take over when Assad goes?

        1. boatsman

          there was 1 Gadaffi. now we've got 50 or so. we've got one Assad....

          we didn't kill him, but the US gave half a billion of weapons to his enemies.

          These enemies didn't turn on Assad, since he has a quite effective and resilient army (fighting for the past 6 years, and still not defeated....... ) , but on the unemployment benefit consumers in the east, better known as the Iraqi army.

          Since then we see IS driving around in humvee's......

          if we kill Assad, we'll get another 50 versions of him, plus Turkey trying to grow back it's territory to Ottoman sizes

          and so on, and so on...

  9. armyknife

    Old ways?

    In retrospect there were certain advantages to countries formally declaring war on each other and then fighting to a non-total victory or negotiated peace treaty.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Armchair Warfare

    What happened to "boots on the ground"? This is like Clinton's attempts to police the world with cruise missiles in the 90s.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Armchair Warfare

      >What happened to "boots on the ground"?

      Um more than a decade of little results in two far off hell holes and a few trillion pissed down the drain? But like Vietnam if we would have just killed a few million more off color people we would have civilized them to love our way of life eventually. Nothing wins hearts and minds like installing corrupt inept governments.

      1. James O'Shea Silver badge

        Re: Armchair Warfare

        Has any government, anywhere, been anything other than corrupt and/or inept to some degree? Some of the more inept I can think of were not particularly corrupt; some of the more corrupt were not particularly inept. Some, of course, were spectacularly corrupt and even more inept at the same time. Those tended to not last long. Well, except for Mexico under the PRI. The PRI managed to stay in power for, what, 70 years? Something like that, despite being unbelievably corrupt and inept. It helped that they were propped up by el colosso del norte.

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: Armchair Warfare

          Well the PRI done went and invited Trump and made him look presidential so I doubt their recent revival has much of a future at least. Especially with the president having an approval rating on par with Ebola.

  11. streaky Silver badge

    39 Sqn RAF

    Nevada based? Creech? Fairly sure they've been at RAF Waddington for a while now?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: 39 Sqn RAF

      Yes, RAF Waddingtong's 39 squadron is indeed based in Nevada:

      http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafwaddington/aboutus/39squadron.cfm

      1. streaky Silver badge

        Re: 39 Sqn RAF

        Fairly sure that article on the MoD site is wildly out of date* - they did re-form years ago now at Creech but it was my understanding that they've moved at least mostly to Waddington now. I'm happy to be wrong about that but I'd be surprised if they're not almost totally back there in terms of personnel at least.

        * "the RAF formed 39 Sqn at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada two years ago" - they re-formed in 2007, 2 years means that was written in 2009.

  12. FromTheRoot

    What's actually going on there?

    Puts tin foil hat on -

    It appears that the USA/UK happened to "accidentally" strike the target. After everything I've seen it doesn't appear unintentional. As the Russians put it - it was at least gross negligence, at worst assisting "ISIS".

    https://www.rt.com/news/359732-us-syria-strike-moscow/

    If the West can't get Syria, from a strategic point of view, it loses most of the Middle East to Russia and Russian doing a very good job at stopping that from happening.

    Meanwhile the West is doing anything at the costs of millions of lives to ensure that does happen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's actually going on there?

      yeah because the US is really going to risk all the shit that'll come their way just to bomb a small Syrian target and kill a handful of soldiers. No tin foil hat needed, cock up, move on, nothing to see here

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: What's actually going on there?

      That whole "war" is a flustercluck. Today it's reported that someone (apparently the Russians or the Syrians) bombed the hell out of a UN aid convoy. The convoy was clearly marked, all sides notified of it's departure point and time and destination. It was shadowed by drones, choppers, and aircraft and then hit at the destination for several hours apparently. Very sad, very infuriating.

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