|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Apr 15, 2017 09:25 PM EDT|
(Photo : USAF) Airstrike on Mosul.
The United States military and coalition allies fighting to destroy ISIS in both Iraq and Syria unleashed 62 percent more bombs and missiles against the terrorist group from January to March compared to the same period in 2016.
The stepped-up pace of air support operations reflects on the intensity of the fighting around the ISIS-held cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. Both cities are being battered by coalition forces on the ground led by the Iraqi Army supported by the U.S. Air Force and allied air forces.
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United States Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT), the combatant command responsible for U.S. security interests in both countries and the Middle East, said the coalition released 3,878 weapons in March. In the first three months of this year, the coalition unleashed 10,918 weapons against ISIS, a 62 percent increase over the 6,730 weapons released in the first quarter of 2016.
Each month has seen more air-to-ground weapons released than any single month over the first 2 ½ years of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), which began August 2014. OIR is the U.S. military's operational name for its military intervention against ISIS, including the campaigns in Iraq and Syria.
The number of sorties with at least one weapon release also increased to 3,187 for the first quarter of this year compared to 2,781 in the same period last year. The number of overall close-air support, escort and interdiction sorties in the first three months of the year, however, fell to 4,741 this year from 6,080 last year.
AFCENT said part of the increase stemmed from Iraqi and other allied forces' efforts to retake the strategically key cities of Mosul and Raqqa, which coalition aircraft are supporting. Last month, AFCENT also said the coalition tends to increase its airstrikes as partner forces make progress in seizing territory.
AFCENT's statistics, however, don't account for all coalition weapons released, meaning the true number of weapons released is likely higher. The statistics include weapons released by aircraft under Combined Forces Air Component Commander control, which includes aircraft from all U.S. military branches and coalition aircraft.
Strikes conducted by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the Army, for example, are not included in AFCENT statistics.
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