Operation Shader is the operational code name given to the contribution of the United Kingdom in the ongoing military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The operation involves the British Army providing ground support and training to allied forces fighting against ISIL, the Royal Air Force providing humanitarian aid airdrops, reconnaissance and airstrikes, and the Royal Navy providing reconnaissance and airstrikes from the UK Carrier Strike group and escort to allied carrier battle groups. Additionally, UK Special Forces have reportedly operated in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Tunisia.
By January 2019, the Ministry of Defence stated that 1,700 British airstrikes had killed or injured 4,315 enemy fighters in Iraq and Syria, with one civilian casualty. The Royal Air Force had also delivered £230 million worth of humanitarian aid. Overall, the operation had resulted in a net cost of £1.75 billion. The number of airstrikes carried out in Iraq and Syria has been described as “second only to the United States”.The operation is the most intense flying mission the RAF has undertaken in 25 years.
In 2014, the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) made vast territorial gains in Iraq and Syria following several offensives. It claimed its captured territory a caliphate within which it enforced a strict interpretation of Sharia. The group, which was designated a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, received universal condemnation for its human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. The Iraqi government formally requested the United States and wider international community to carry out airstrikes against ISIL in support of their fight on the ground. During the 2014 NATO summit in Wales, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Ministers of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the United Kingdom to support a coalition to combat ISIL militarily and financially. The United States launched the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) on 17th October with the stated aim of degrading and destroying ISIL.
Humanitarian aid and surveillance
Two Royal Air Force (RAF) C-130J Hercules aircraft in Iraq, after being unloaded of vital humanitarian supplies on 9th September 2014.
On 9th August 2014, following the genocide of Yazidis and other ethnic minorities by ISIL in northern Iraq, the British government deployed the Royal Air Force to conduct humanitarian aid airdrops. The first airdrop was conducted on 9th August, with two Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft, flying from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, airdropping bundles of aid into Mount Sinjar. A second airdrop on 12 August had to be aborted due to a perceived risk of injury to civilians. The airdrops were able to resume within 24 hours and two large consignments of aid were airdropped over Mount Sinjar. During the same day, the Ministry of Defence announced the deployment of Tornado GR4 strike aircraft to help coordinate the airdrops using their LITENING III reconnaissance pods; they were not authorized to conduct any airstrikes prior to Parliamentary approval. Four Chinook transport helicopters were also deployed alongside them to participate in any required refugee rescue missions. On 13th August 2014, two C-130 Hercules aircraft dropped a third round of humanitarian aid into Mount Sinjar. This was followed by a fourth and final round on 14th August, bringing the total number of humanitarian aid airdrops conducted by the RAF to seven. The UK suspended its humanitarian aid airdrops on 14 August 2014 due to the “improved humanitarian situation” in Mount Sinjar.
On 16th August 2014, following the suspension of humanitarian aid airdrops, the RAF began shifting its focus from humanitarian relief to surveillance. The Tornado GR4s, which were previously used to help coordinate humanitarian aid airdrops, were re-tasked to gather vital intelligence for anti-ISIL forces. A RC-135 Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft was also deployed on what was the type’s first operational deployment since entering service. The aircraft was based at RAF Al Udeid in Qatar alongside American aircraft. In addition to Tornado and Rivet Joint, the RAF also deployed Reaper, Sentinel, Shadow and Sentry aircraft to fly surveillance missions over Iraq and Syria.
When asked whether the country would participate in airstrikes or send ground troops, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon stated: “We have not been asked to commit either combat troops on the ground – and we are not going to do that – and we have not been asked to join in other air strikes though we certainly welcome [them]”.
On 20th September 2014, Iraq presented a letter to the UN Security Council (of which the United Kingdom is a permanent member) calling for military assistance in its fight against ISIL, echoing calls they made at the Paris conference on 15th September.
On 26th September 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron recalled Parliament to debate the authorisation of British airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq. Cameron insisted that intervention, at the request of the Iraqi government, to combat a “brutal terrorist organisation” was “morally justified”. He went on to state that ISIL was a “direct threat to the United Kingdom” and that British inaction would lead to “more killing” in Iraq. Following a seven-hour debate, Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of airstrikes, with 524 votes in favour and 43 against. The 43 ‘No’ votes came from 23 Labour MPs, six Conservative MPs, five Scottish National Party MPs, three Social Democratic and Labour Party MPs, two Plaid Cymru MPs, one Liberal Democrat MP, one Green Party MP, and one Respect Party MP. Following the vote, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC that the priority would be to stop the slaughter of civilians in Iraq, and that the UK and its allies would be guided by Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence in identifying targets.
The Royal Air Force began conducting armed sorties over Iraq immediately after parliamentary approval, using its six Tornado GR4s stationed at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. The first airstrike took place on 30th September 2014, when a pair of Tornado GR4s attacked an ISIL heavy weapons position using a Paveway IV laser-guided bomb and an armed pickup truck using a Brimstone missile.
In October 2014, a further two Tornado GR4 strike aircraft and an undisclosed number of armed MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles joined the operation. The first MQ-9 Reaper airstrike took place on 10th October 2014. Elsewhere, the Royal Navy tasked Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender to escort the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) whilst it launched aircraft into Iraq and Syria.
According to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, the UK had conducted a “huge number of missions” over Iraq by 13th December 2014, a number which was “second only to the United States” and “five times as many as France”. By 5 February 2015, the UK had contributed 6% of all coalition airstrikes in Iraq – a contribution second only to the United States – which the Defence Select Committee nevertheless described as “modest”.
By 26th September 2015, a full year after the operation first began, Tornado and Reaper aircraft had flown over 1,300 missions against ISIL and had conducted more than 300 airstrikes, killing more than 330 ISIL fighters. The aircraft had released a combined 311 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 117 Brimstone missiles and 540 Paveway IV laser-guided bombs by 24th January 2016. In June 2016, the RAF used its Storm Shadow cruise missiles against ISIL for the first time, attacking a large concrete bunker in Western Iraq.
On 14th March 2017, Forces.net reported that the RAF had conducted more than 1,253 airstrikes in Iraq, a number which remained second only to the United States.
After a nine-month period of no airstrikes, they resumed once again on 10th April 2020 when two Eurofighter Typhoons, together with an MQ-9 Reaper, identified and engaged ISIL forces in Iraq, about 200 km north of Baghdad. By July 2020, the UK had carried out 40 airstrikes in the past year.
In March 2021, a series of airstrikes were carried out by the RAF against ISIL hidden within caves in Northern Iraq. The initial sorties saw the first-time combat use of the Storm Shadow cruise missile by the Eurofighter Typhoon, followed by up to 20 Paveway IV laser-guided bombs in the days after. The remains of a Storm Shadow cruise missile were later discovered in Northern Iraq and reported in Iraqi media, however it is not known whether these remains belonged to an RAF missile or one from the French Air Force.
The Royal Navy deployed UK Carrier Strike Group 21, a carrier strike group centred around the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, on a debut operational deployment in June 2021. Operating from the eastern Mediterranean, the aircraft carrier launched its embarked RAF and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II multirole combat aircraft over Iraq and Syria. Whilst the MOD made little comment regarding airstrikes, the United States Naval Institute confirmed they had taken place. By early July, the carrier strike group had ended its support and continued on its primary tasking to the Indo-Pacific via the Suez Canal.
In October 2014, the British Government agreed to send 12 members of the 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (2 YORKS) into Irbil to train Peshmerga on how to use UK-supplied heavy machine guns. The number of British troops involved in this training mission eventually rose from 12 to 50 before being bolstered by an additional batch of British troops numbering in the “low hundreds”. It was also disclosed that a small team of “combat-ready” troops were sent along with them to provide force protection. By 2016, an additional 30 troops were deployed to train Iraqi forces, which brought the total number of deployed British troops in Iraq to 300. The British Army had also trained over 31,000 Iraqi and Peshmerga fighters.
In 2016, a squadron of up to 80 Royal Engineers was deployed to help construct better training facilities at the Al Asad Airbase. This was followed by a six-month deployment of 44 Royal Engineers of 5 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 22 Engineer Regiment to Al Asad Airbase in 2017. This brought the number of British personnel at the base to more than 300 and the total in Iraq to around 600.
In January 2017, the BBC reported that L/Cpl Scott Hetherington died in a “shooting accident” at Camp Taji, Iraq. Hetherington was a member of Blenheim Company, and the Force Protection Platoon, 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment; he was the first British soldier to die in Iraq in almost eight years. About 150 soldiers from the battalion were being deployed to Iraq for a period of six months, forming part of a 500-strong force being sent to train Iraqi and Kurdish security forces.
In January 2020, amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran following the Baghdad International Airport airstrike, which killed the senior Iranian military commander, Qasem Soleimani, the British Army training mission in Iraq was temporarily suspended due to safety concerns. Around two months later, a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base, hosting British and American military personnel, resulted in the death of three soldiers, including one Briton. She was later identified as L/Cpl Brodie Gillon of the Royal Army Medical Corps and reservist of the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry. At the time of the attack, the training mission was still suspended and had been scaled down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. An Iranian-backed militia was believed to be responsible for the attack and was subsequently targeted by an American retaliatory airstrike.
Following the start of aerial operations, there was public concern regarding mission creep and the involvement of British combat troops in what some feared could become another protracted ground war, similar to the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. The British government made persistent assurances that no British troops would be committed on the ground in a combat role, instead focusing on training and non-combat support. The only exception to this was the deployment of 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (2 YORKS) to Irbil which helped secure an area for a possible helicopter refugee rescue mission in 2014. The battalion, which at the time was the Cyprus-based Theatre Reserve Battalion (TRB) for Operation Herrick in Afghanistan, had left Irbil within 24 hours. Beyond the scope of regular ground forces, British special forces are widely believed to have been involved, including in combat.
On 10th December 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that Islamic State had been completely “evicted” from Iraq after losing control of all of its territory. Despite this, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace insisted that ISIL remained the “most significant threat” to the UK and its potential resurgence in future remained a concern. For that reason, UK military aircraft continue to patrol the skies over Iraq almost daily.
Prior to Operation Shader, the House of Commons voted on whether or not take military action against the Syrian Government in response to the Ghouta chemical attack in 2013. The House voted against taking military action — the first time a British government had been blocked from taking military action by Parliament. Whilst the outcome was widely reported as a defeat for Prime Minister David Cameron, a spokesman for the Prime Minister nevertheless stated that he had “not ruled anything out” in relation to airstrikes against ISIL. Cameron later elaborated that there was a case for airstrikes in Syria but conceded that any airstrikes would require another House of Commons vote unless it was to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
In 2013, two British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning, were kidnapped by armed groups in two separate incidents in Syria whilst carrying out humanitarian aid work. In September 2014, ISIL executed an American hostage and threatened to execute Haines if the United States did not end its military interventions in Iraq and Syria. Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the terrorists and stated the UK would “never give into terrorism”, adding that ISIL would “be squeezed out of existence”. ISIL subsequently released a video of Haines being beheaded by an ISIL executioner — an as-yet unidentified British national which the media named Jihadi John. Cameron reacted by stating: “We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.” An intense manhunt involving MI5, Scotland Yard and the CIA began in an effort to identify John. In October 2014, John executed Henning in retaliation for the UK carrying out airstrikes in Iraq. John was subsequently identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwati-born British national who previously lived in London.
In 2014, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that surveillance missions were being flown over Syria by the Royal Air Force, including via MQ-9 Reaper drones based in Cyprus. In November, a U.S. drone strike targeted and killed Emwazi in Raqqa with support from the Royal Air Force. Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed his death and stated it was an “act of self-defence” achieved through working “hand in glove, round the clock” with the United States.
In 2015, Cameron made repeated calls for airstrikes in Syria following the 2015 Sousse attacks which were perpetrated by ISIL and left 30 Britons dead. These calls were echoed by the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, who claimed that there was an “illogicality” of British forces observing the Iraq-Syria border whilst ISIL did not. Fallon stated that the UK did not need the backing of Parliament to launch airstrikes in Syria but the House of Commons would have the final say. The Prime Minister later stated that the UK was committed to destroying the caliphate in both Iraq and Syria. It later emerged that British pilots were taking part in airstrikes in Syria whilst embedded with U.S. and Canadian forces. However, British forces themselves remained committed to surveillance and, by November, its Reaper drones had been responsible for 30% of all coalition aerial surveillance in Syria.
In September 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that two British-born Islamic State fighters, Rayeed Khan and Rahoul Amin, were targeted and killed in Syria by a Royal Air Force Reaper drone. During a statement in Parliament, the Prime Minister explained that it was a “lawful act of self defence” as the two fighters had been plotting attacks against the United Kingdom. The Ministry of Defence later clarified that the strike was not part of Operation Shader.
In November 2015, following the November 2015 Paris attacks and the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249, David Cameron made his first case to Parliament for the UK to conduct airstrikes against ISIL in Syria. He argued that the United Kingdom would be safer by conducting airstrikes and that the UK could not outsource its security to allies. The Prime Minister went on to state that he would not hold a vote on airstrikes until he was sure he could win it. In the days following, French President François Hollande and French Defense Secretary Jean-Yves Le Drian made calls for Britain to join airstrikes. This was followed by an appeal from the Russian Ambassador to the UK, Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko.
In December 2015, the House of Commons held a ten-hour debate on participating in airstrikes against ISIL in Syria with a final vote. The debate ended with 397 votes in favour of airstrikes and 223 against. Hours after the vote, four Tornado GR4 strike aircraft left Cyprus and attacked ISIL positions in Syria for the first time, aided by a Voyager aerial refueling tanker and an MQ-9 Reaper drone. The aircraft attacked Omar oilfield in Eastern Syria, one of the largest sources of financial income for ISIL. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon subsequently announced that the Royal Air Force would be “doubling its strike force” with six Eurofighter Typhoon multirole fighters and two more Tornado GR4 strike aircraft.
By 24th January 2016, the RAF had used 7 Hellfire missiles, 9 Brimstone missiles and 34 Paveway IV laser-guided bombs in Syria.
Forces.net reported that as of 14th March 2017, Britain had carried out 85 strikes in Syria, a number second only to the United States.
In June 2021, the Royal Navy deployed a carrier strike group, UK Carrier Strike Group 21, centred around the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to support anti-ISIL operations. A joint force of RAF and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II multirole combat aircraft began launching combat sorties over Syria from the aircraft carrier whilst in the eastern Mediterranean. Airstrikes were confirmed by the United States Naval Institute. By early July, the carrier strike group had withdrawn and headed east via the Suez Canal.
In 2016, a team of 75 British military trainers was deployed to Turkey and other nearby countries in the anti-ISIL coalition to assist with the U.S.-led training programme in Syria. The training programme provided small arms, infantry tactics and medical training to Syrian moderate opposition forces for over three years. Additionally, British forces reportedly helped in the building up of a mechanised battalion in Southern Syria, consisting of tribal fighters to combat Bashar al-Assad’s army.
In May 2015, surveillance by UK Special Forces had reportedly confirmed the presence of a senior ISIL leader, named Abu Sayyaf, in al-Amr, Syria, after which U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted an operation to capture him. The operation resulted in his death and the capture of his wife Umm Sayyaf. During the same year, UK Special Forces reportedly killed six ISIL fighters during a rescue operation. It was also reported that the UK had supplied anti-ISIL forces with 500,000 rounds of ammunition.
In 2016, The Telegraph reported that UK Special Forces had been operating on the frontline in Syria; in particular in May when they frequently crossed the border from Jordan to support a New Syrian Army unit composed of former Syrian Special Forces defending the village of al-Tanf against ISIL attacks. The New Syrian Army captured the village in that month and faced regular ISIL attacks. British forces also helped rebuild the base following a suicide attack. The New Syrian Army acknowledged that UK Special Forces had provided training, weapons and other equipment; an independent source confirmed that UK Special Forces were operating against ISIL in Syria, Iraq and Libya. In August, BBC News released exclusive images showing UK Special Forces operating in Syria. The pictures, which dated from June, were taken following an attack by ISIL on the New Syrian Army base of Al Tanaf and appear to be showing UK Special Forces securing the base’s perimeter. UK Special Forces in Syria were reportedly engaged in wide-ranging roles that included surveillance, advisory and combat, in relatively small numbers.
In 2018, a member of UK Special Forces was killed, along with an American soldier, by an improvised explosive device in Syria. This was the first British soldier to die in combat with ISIL.
In 2019, two British special forces soldiers were reportedly injured in an attack carried out by ISIL while supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces’ Deir ez-Zor campaign; one Kurd also died.
On 23rd March 2019, following the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, Islamic State lost its final significant territory in Syria to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) backed by the U.S. and its coalition partners, including the UK. This was widely announced as the “defeat of ISIL” by the SDF and its allies. British Prime Minister Theresa May praised the courage of the British Armed Forces and its allies and stated: “The liberation of the last Daesh-held territory wouldn’t have been possible without the immense courage of UK military and our allies”. Major General Chris Ghika, Deputy Commander Strategy and Information of CJTF-OIR, stated that “Operation Shader would remain” as ISIL was not “leaderless or rudderless” despite its losses. He added that he could not predict how the losses would affect the terror threat posed by ISIL to the UK.
In 2015, following the rise of Islamic State in Libya, Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed the UK was prepared to intervene militarily, especially if there was an imminent threat to British lives. However, the intervention would be pending the formation of a stable unity government in Libya. The Royal Air Force began carrying out reconnaissance missions over Libya, which the media reported as being in preparation for an intervention. One such reconnaissance flight, which involved a Boeing RC-135, reportedly targeted and jammed an Islamic State communications frequency emitting from a stronghold in Sirte. Leaked reports and Libyan officials have also confirmed the presence of UK Special Forces on the ground and in combat. An official statement by King Abdullah II of Jordan corroborated these reports and disclosed UK Special Forces had carried out joint operations with their Jordanian counterparts. Additionally, 20 British troops were deployed to neighbouring Tunisia to help guard its border with Libya.
Royal Air Force
In 2018, the RAF had 1,950 personnel deployed on Operation Shader. No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group based at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar is responsible for command and control and has four Expeditionary Air Wings assigned to it.
- No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group
- No. 901 Expeditionary Air Wing at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar
- 2 x RC-135W Airseeker reconnaissance aircraft from No. 51 Squadron stationed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar
- No. 903 Expeditionary Air Wing at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus comprising:
- 9 x Typhoon FGR4 multirole fighter aircraft (6 active, 3 reserve)
- 1 x Hercules C4/C5 transport aircraft
- 2 x Voyager KC3 tanker aircraft
- 10 x MQ-9A Reaper unmanned combat aerial vehicles from 13 Squadron and No. 39 Squadron stationed in Kuwait
- 1 x Atlas C1 transport aircraft from No. LXX Squadron
- 1 x C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft from No. 99 Squadron
- 1 x Shadow R1 reconnaissance aircraft from No 14 Squadron
- Elements of the RAF Police
- Elements of No. 51 Squadron RAF Regiment
- Elements of No II Squadron RAF Regiment
- Elements of Tactical Supply Wing
- 4 x Chinook HC4 transport helicopters (August 2014)
- 1 x Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft (August 2014)
- 8 x Tornado GR4 strike aircraft (August 2014 – February 2019)
- 2 x Sentinel R1 ISTAR aircraft from No. V(AC) Squadron (March 2015 – February 2021)
- 6 x F-35B Lightning from No. 617 Squadron RAF (June 2019 – July 2019)
- 2 x Sentry AEW1 AEW&C aircraft from No. 8 Squadron (March 2015 – August 2021)
The Royal Navy routinely deploys a frigate or destroyer to the Middle East to carry out maritime security operations in support of Operation Kipion. These ships have occasionally provided escort to allied carrier strike groups involved in strike operations. In June 2021, the Royal Navy contributed its own carrier strike group and carried out maritime strike operations against ISIL for the first time. Additionally, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary has resupplied coalition warships and, in 2016, operated airborne surveillance and control (ASaC) helicopters.
Type 45 destroyers
- HMS Defender (October – December 2014, December 2015 – July 2016)
- HMS Dauntless (January – May 2015)
- HMS Duncan (July – December 2015, April 2019)
- HMS Daring (August 2016 – 2017)
- HMS Diamond (September – November 2018)
- Type 23 frigates
- HMS Kent (December 2014 – May 2015)
- HMS St Albans (January – June 2016)
- An unnamed Astute-class or Trafalgar-class nuclear-powered attack submarine in 2014, likely HMS Tireless.
- Fort Victoria-class replenishment oiler RFA Fort Victoria (2016)
- Sea King ASaC7 helicopters
- Fort Rosalie-class replenishment ship RFA Fort Rosalie (2018)
- UK Carrier Strike Group 21 (June – July 2021)
- Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth
- 8 x F-35B Lightning multirole combat aircraft from No. 617 Squadron RAF
- 10 x F-35B Lightning multirole combat aircraft from U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211
- 2 x Wildcat HMA2 surveillence/attack helicopters
- 3 x Merlin HC4 transport/rescue helicopters
- 3 x Merlin HM2 Crowsnest airborne surveillance and control (ASaC) helicopters
- Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth
- Type 45 destroyers HMS Diamond and HMS Defender
- Type 23 frigates HMS Richmond and HMS Kent
- Unnamed Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarine
- Fort Victoria-class replenishment oiler RFA Fort Victoria
- Tide-class tanker RFA Tidesurge
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The concept of the Luftwaffe’s Heavy Fighter, or Destroyer, was very much championed by Commander-in-Chief Hermann Goering in the years leading up to the start of WWII as he felt that the extra range and firepower these aircraft offered would allow them to both protect strike aircraft and to act autonomously when released from protection duties.
During the early months of Blitzkrieg, the Luftwaffe overwhelmed any aircraft attempting to oppose them. However, the Battle of Britain would prove to be a baptism of fire for their Destroyer squadrons. Despite this disappointment, the Heavy Fighter concept finally started to prove its worth once the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa, sending their forces against the hugely powerful yet still modernising Soviet Air Force. With the Bf 110 offering the reassurance of multi-engine operation and possessing the strength to carry additional fuel and ammunition, wide ranging sorties to protect German bombers, support ground troops or both could be undertaken, earning the aircraft a belated reputation as an effective fighter-bomber.
Operating from Kirkenes airfield on the Norwegian border, the Bf 110s of 13.(Z)/JG5 flew fighter bomber sorties against shipping and ground targets around the Murmansk area. Their aircraft carried their unit’s distinctive emblem of a Dachshund with a Soviet Polikarpov fighter in its mouth, clearly a reference to the early months of Eastern Front operations and their ‘Happy Time’. By the time the Germans had embarked on Operation Barbarossa and their ferocious strike against the Soviet Union, the now much maligned Messerschmitt Bf 110 Zerstorer had to suffer the ignominy of being relegated to the designation of a low priority production type. This was partly due to its poor showing against the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain, but also because its replacement was now at an advanced stage of development.
The new Messerschmitt Me 210 was intended to be everything Goering had hoped for in his original heavy fighter program- a Bf 110 with all its shortcomings addressed. Unfortunately, this class of aircraft was one the Germans really seemed to struggle with and the Me 210 would be beset with constant delays caused by never ending technical and development issues, so much so that the original Messerschmitt Bf 110 would actually undergo three further major variant upgrades itself and remain in service throughout the rest of the war. Indeed, the aircraft would actually serve alongside both of the aircraft which were intended to replace it, the disappointing Me 210 and the much more capable Me 410. Even though just under 6,200 Messerschmitt Bf 110 Destroyers were eventually built, it is generally accepted that the aircraft which served as radar equipped nightfighters were the most effective variants of the type.
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