Even though the Pentagon has been adamant with claims that none of the 4000 American troops in Iraq are involved in combat, US jets have been flying several attack sorties against Islamic State (ISIS) militants. But what exactly consists of a mission in getting the Bombs on the enemies?

This is what a day in the life of an aircraft carrier-based crew is like:

The mission begins with CENTCOM’s Joint Task Force sending the tasking order to the aircraft carrier’s intelligence centre. From there, the air wing operations cell assign sorties to the appropriate squadron, and those squadrons assign aircrews to fly the sorties. At that point aircrews get to work with intel officers and start planning every detail of the sortie.

USS Harry S. Truman and Carrier Airwing Three - currently on six month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pre flight planning of the mission.

After the long hours of mission planning are done, crews attempt a few hours of sleep. (The regulations call for 8 hours of sleep before a hop, but that seldom happens.) After quick showers and putting on the “zoom bags”, which are flight suits, aviators hit the chow line before the mission brief. All the crews involved with the mission gather for the “mass gaggle” brief, usually two and a half hours before launch time. After that, elements break off for detailed mission discussions.

Meanwhile, on the flight deck, the techies fix gripes and make sure jets are FMC — “FULLY MISSION CAPABLE.” At the same time the ordnance crew strap bombs onto the jets according to the load plan published by the Strike Operations department.

 Forty-five minutes before launch, crews head to the paraloft and start preparing and gearing up into —

  • G-suits
  • Survival vests
  • Helmets

 They also strap on a 9mm pistol as a safety measure in case they go down in enemy territory. Once each group of crew are satisfied that the jet is ready to go and FMC, crews climb in and wait for the Air Boss in the tower to give them the signal to start ‘em up and get the place noisy!

The weightboard.

The weight board.

While lining up with the catapult for launch, pilots verify that the weight board is accurate. A Green shirt holds up a weight board showing a Super Hornet pilot that the catapult will be set for a 43,000 pound launch.

With the throttles shifted to full power position and the controls cycled as a check to make sure they’re moving properly (This is the last check for the controls), the pilot salutes the cat officer and the cat officer touches the deck, signalling the operator in the catwalk to fire the catapult. Zero to 160 MPH in 2.2 seconds. Airborne! (Aircraft launching on Cats 1 and 2 turn right; those on Cats 3 and 4 turn left.)

Way high, somewhere above the carrier, Super Hornets top off their gas from another Super Hornet with a tanker configuration. Meaning it could shift its fuel to the aircraft heading on a mission. Wingmen join flight leads them and the strike elements ingress “feet dry” over hostile territory. The flight hits the tanker once again, but this time an Air Force KC-135. At that point the mission lead checks in with “Big Eye” — the AWACS — to get an update on the current threat status and any other late-breaking info that might be relevant, the information is obviously passed on to the commanding centre.

Electronic warfare versions of the Super Hornet — are part of the strike package in the event of any unexpected pop-up surface-to-air missile threats. The AWACS then hands off the flight to the forward air controller in company with Iraqi Forces – The FAC gives the aircrew a “nine-line” brief” that lays out the target details and any threats surrounding it, and last but not least, the proximity of friendlies.

If all goes to plan, the jets head back “feet wet”, Mission Complete! And for the last time stops at the “mid-air gas station” for some fuel along the way back.

Once the planes are shut down the aircrew head straight down to CVIC with their FLIR tapes for battle damage assessment.

Mission successfully completed!

Mission successfully completed!

 Future of ISIS fighting.

“Victory is when we complete the mission of degrading, destroying and defeating ISIL,”  The Pentagon chief said, using another name for the group.

The Chief was joined by Army General Martin Dempsey – the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the senators that the US was ready to strike the IS militants in Syria. “This will not look like ‘shock and awe’ because that is not how IS is organised,” he said, “but it will be persistent and sustainable.”

British Foreign Secretary – Mr Hammond was speaking after a summit in Paris where world leaders agreed to provide military aid to fight the extremist network. The meeting of 30 countries agreed to “support the Iraqi government by any means necessary – including military assistance”. British Prime Minister David Cameron had said Britain would seek United Nations support for any such plans.

He said the backing would be an important role in the blueprint for dealing with the extremists, who have seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been urging allies – especially Middle East and Gulf states – to show a united front and work as a team, and one American official said several Arab countries had offered to join the airstrikes.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei revealed he had received a request from the US to join the fight against IS, but said he had rejected it because of Washington’s “unclean intentions”.



  • http://www.theweek.co.uk/world-news/islamic-state/59846/islamic-state-raf-jets-carry-out-first-air-strikes-in-iraq
  • http://news.sky.com/story/1336513/us-takes-fight-to-islamic-state-militants


Additional reading

Author – Jake Meilak