F/A-18 Tasked to Fly Surveillance Missions over Iraq

MSF13-0082U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets are flying surveillance missions over Iraq from the U.S. aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush stationed in the Persian Gulf, Pentagon officials said.

The fighters are flying missions designed to observe movements of the militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. ISIS now controls portions of Iraq and threatens to make further advances into Baghdad.

The F/A-18’s targeting pods have electro-optical cameras that will allow U.S. and Iraqi commanders to monitor the militant group’s movements, supply lines and weapons caches.

The fighters are also likely watching the Iraqi borders to check whether fighters, equipment or arms are being shipped from ISIS strongholds in Syria, said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute.

The F/A-18 missions will also help pilots become familiar with the terrain and potential targets should they be called upon to deliver air strikes. Along these lines, many experts and observers have made the point that targeting small, mobile groups of ISIS fighters on-the-move in pick-up trucks might be a challenging task for fighter jets.

The ISIS fighters will not provide an easily identifiable fixed target from the sky, but may prove difficult for even the best sensors and precision weaponry to pinpoint. Of course, the U.S. has gained experience in this task over the past ten years trying to identify insurgents in Iraq and Taliban in Afghanistan.

Goure questioned why the U.S. has chosen the F/A-18 to fly these missions opposed to America’s drone fleet.

“We’ve got Predators, we’ve got Reapers. We’ve spent years developing a vast and redundant set of ISR capabilities to do precisely this mission,” Goure said.

The Bush is joined in the Arabian Gulf by an amphibious transport dock, the Mesa Verde, which is carrying 550 Marines and five MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The Osprey’s could prove critical if an evacuation of U.S. personnel is ordered from any part of Iraq.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • hialpha

    Get a stock photo of the Black Lions or something!

    Anyways, this feels much more like a PR move than anything. It’s pretty obvious that POTUS doesn’t want US involvement and I don’t blame him.

    • Yoshua

      thats a test F-18 that Boeing came out with i think a year ago, the F-18 has comformal fuel tanks which is what you see over the center fuselage forward of the vertical fins and can carry a weapons pod making it more stealthy… there may be more but thats what i remember off the top of my head

      • hialpha

        Yeah, I’m saying they should replace the Advanced Super Hornet picture with a Super Hornet from Carrier Air Wing 8 — like the Black Lions.

    • IronV

      It’s not a “PR move.” It’s a calculated and prudent move to gather intel in the event US forces are ordered to take action. No the POTUS doesn’t want us involved. But the POTUS recognizes we may have no choice given ISIS’s ability to further destabilize the region and create a haven for terrorists with international ambitions. Put plainly, we have to be ready…

  • Lance

    Might have to spy on the Shiites too. Mutalla AL Sadirs (Sorry cant spell his name) militia is formed again they plan not to fight only ISIS but kill American military advisers Obama sent to Iraq. Things look BAD now.

    • blight_

      Moqtadda Al-Sadr is going to make a play for the throne. Perhaps he can cast himself as more pro-Iranian/pro-religion than token-religion/Shia/ersatz-dictator Maliki?

    • tmb2

      Moqtada Al Sadr or Muqtada Al Sadr? You couldn’t Google his name?

      • blight_

        I duncare itza innernets

      • twistedneck

        Who cares what is this grammar police from 1995 again? I’d prefer to misspell his name anyway. Why give them the respect of a google search to make sure the ethnic spelling is correct.. That would be a waste of time.

        • tmb2

          Just pointing out how little effort is required to research something really flipping simple before posting.

          • blight_

            Some people like “gut opinions” which are vulnerable to objective research.

            I will note that Sadr is not our friend, whether or not we spell his name right.

          • tmb2

            Agreed. I can’t stand him, though I’m not sure he really commands them anymore. After they stood down a few years ago he went back to mostly religious and a little political work. We’ll see in the coming days if he has anything to say. At this point I think it’s just spokesmen or subordinates doing the talking. Sadr hates Maliki though.

          • blight_

            I suspect the JAM organization’s lieutenants have probably spun off their own paramilitaries. I suppose they /might/ put themselves under his banner, but once you taste independent command it’s hard to go back to being someone else’s follower.

  • hibeam

    The city is completely engulfed in flames… and oh looky there.. the Obama fire trucks are roaring back into town.

    • tiger

      Sad humor, yet true… Surveillance? Hell, turn on CNN.

  • CharleyA

    Goure’s think tank doesn’t want F/A-18s to look good, considering that the Super Hornet is a direct competitor to the F-35, a Lexington Institute poster child and cash cow.

    • Curt

      It doesn’t change the fact that he is right.

      Given it is a permissive environment and persistent surveillance is required to identify the bad guys, long duration surveillance, something the F-18 is singularly poorly suited for, is what is needed. However, since the F-18s are carrier based, it may be a simply that there are no drones based nearby, so you use what is available, even if it is not optimal.

      • greg

        The only aircraft that meets ur criteria is the B-1 and B52 bombers.

        • Ziv

          I would have thought that the U-2 would have been best for surveillance, but not sure how much loiter time they would have. And since the U-2 is being de-funded, I doubt the Air Force wants to demonstrate how useful they are.

          • hialpha

            The RQ-4 Global Hawk can loiter for 24 hrs. That’s about as good as you are going to get outside of space-born assets.

          • hialpha

            Or, dare I write these blasphemous words, they should use a P-3 or P-8 for engaged ISR. Those things can carry specialists aboard who can help streamline things a bit.

        • Curt

          Not really, for manned aircraft the Iraqi Combat Caravan is a good platform for the role. An AT-6 would also be great, not to mention the numerous versions of the King Air that are used for surveillance currently or the P-3/P-8, although all of these are pretty pricey compared to drones. The Predator would be the best asset by far but it is probably not able to be based close by. What this really shows is the need for a UCLASS. The F-18 is great for traditional photo recon against a traditional enemy, but it just doesn’t have the legs or the loitering ability that is required.

      • IronV

        That is exactly right.

  • John Deere

    “Surveillance Missions”, yeah right. Just like the 300 servicemen recently deployed are “observers”…

  • greg

    Hornets were chosen because they r LOUD. As anyone who lives near a NAS or MCAS station to attest too.

  • JohnD

    If they get shot up is,that combat? If they crash who does,the CSAR mission, the Iraqis? Do,they still,get flight pay? I’ ll bet the sailors,get,extra pay!! But not the SF on the ground!

    • Mike

      Flight crew always gets flight pay, and Sailors get their sea pay. SF always gets their hazard duty pay, and they will get their pay for being deployed.
      Neither will be receiving imminent danger pay.
      Nobody is getting paid anything they shouldn’t be getting paid.

  • hibeam

    Damn that is one fine looking aircraft. The F-35 always looks pudgy to me.

    • kevin

      Nice wings and tail! I think I looks good from a bottom shot. But the intake reminds me of an old A-6 and from the top, the fuselage looks like a reject from the 50’s…sorta a mix between an F-4 and a F-104. Was their priority, not to resemble the Raptor for political reasons or this is what you get when ya try to make one plane fit the needs of all the branches? The Boeing prototype was just too weird with it’s bass mouth for the intake but it had a cool design!

    • Zolton

      I agree. Fighter planes should look mean and sleek or if not sleek, at least mean. The F-35 does not look either.

  • Rob

    This is rather twisted to me as Qatar & the west supported the groups that merged into ISIS. Now with lost ground and less support in Syria they push east towards Shia dominated land. If Sadr is made leader, it will be worse then Sadaam.

    Protect the Kurds & push for negotiations between Sunni & Shiite groups or will only get worse. Much like Israel/Palestine, too many have been killed both sides and resentments are high. The same affect in Ukraine. Media, Pentagon & restworld denying that World War 3 has already beginning?

    • hibeam

      Invent a time machine. Go back and elect someone competent.

    • Dov

      Yes, it’s definitely twisted. Strange how the same people who have been materially supporting and cheering on ISIS and similar groups in Syria, suddenly are outraged and demand action against them, in Iraq.

    • orly?

      I still wish the FIRST Bush kept his word

  • rtsy

    Great, they can tell us where to drawn the lines after the Sunnis and Shiites work out their own borders without US troops getting in their way.

  • hibeam

    “Dammit Jim.. I make speeches.. I’m not a manager”

  • blight_

    Vietnam replay anyone?

    First they sent the advisors.

    Then they sent aircraft.

    Then marines to protect the airbases.

    Then operations were conducted beyond the airbases.


    • tiger

      More like the end rather than the start…

      • blight_

        That too. Their military is collapsing even after the blood and treasure we dumped in it.

        We’re at the Easter Offensive of ’72, or Lam Son 719. It isn’t quite game over yet…but it will be in a few years.

        What’ll probably happen is that Sunni militaries will rush into one part, and Shia militaries will rush into the another..fait accompli, Iraq is divided.

        • Rhys F

          On the other hand, Given that ISIS is killing POWs out of hand, when it comes down to “Fight Or Die or Don’t Fight and Die” there will be a lot more resistance now.

          • blight_

            Can’t believe Shia conscripts were crazy enough to think surrendering to crazy Wahabbis was a good idea.

            I guess all the tough guys are drawing retainer pay from Sadr and waiting for The Call…then it’s allahu-ackbar human waves on trucks fighting human waves on trucks.

    • andy

      They teach that from the west point…..

  • Jack Revere

    As soon as the advisers relay a positive ID to the Hornets, bye bye ISIS….

  • Dijon Shefield

    It is definitely valuable to know where the weapons cache is coming from. Supply chain isolation comes first. Figuring how Al Qaada moves across borders and stay covert until attacking is the element of sneak attack best suited for allied forces. The so-called “caught red-handed” effect will land them in Guantanamo the safest way possible.

  • jamesb

    …..alliances change in a sec, eh?

    If the religious thing isn’t settled (It won’t be) we’re just saving Baghdad….

  • jamesb

    …and the oil down in the south of the country of course…..

    That’s even though the US gets less than 5% of its oil from the region these days….

    Notice how your gas prices have gone up even though we DO NOT get much gas from the Middle East….

    • rtsy

      Our refineries still get a lot of oil from the Middle East region, and the price of oil is set on the global market.

    • blight_

      That and OPEC may not necessarily be willing to increase production to buffet the supply crunches from Iraq.

  • marripelly.thirupathi


  • Dee

    That pic, is that the new advance F18?

    • kevin

      What is underneath it? Doesn’t look like a conformal tank? Curious!

    • Jake

      Yes, ain’t it sexy?!

  • hialpha

    I would be interested to know what the hornet load-outs are. That would really tell us what the “brass” is considering.

    • blight_

      It would provoke a fresh round of “OPSEC” squeals.

      • hialpha

        Ha-hah! I see what you did there. ANYWAYS…

        If your backside is on the line, then you may opine differently about what information is releasable, be they squeals or not.

  • David

    Why does it look like it’s one of the new buffet team super hornet advance series? the one that going is trying to sell to replace the aging Legacy models and not have the y Navy go to the F35

    • David Pistey

      sry thought i had proofread my post should not have the buffet team dont know how to edit the post so sry about that

  • C Ritic

    It could also be about sending a message. Warplanes speak louder than drones…

  • Aero

    The U.S. Navy was tasked with flying surveillance missions over Iraq. The only drones the Navy has are Fire Scout and BAMS which isn’t in service yet. The photo is of the Super Hornet Boeing is trying to sell.

    Read more: http://live-defensetech.sites.thewpvalet.com/2014/06/21/fa-18-tasked-to…

  • PhotoMan

    Looks like the image has been photoshopped to get rid of all the markings on the plane, except for the ‘hornet wings’ art painted on the tail. Defensetech.org probably lifted the image from the website of a company that uses defense photos for promotional purposes after editing out the military markings in order to avoid the impression of official military endorsement. USAA is an example of a company that edits out most military markings on pictures that it uses of military equipment.

  • CaptainDoc

    If this aircraft gets drop kicked and hits the ground our pilot will not receive nice treatment. The ground fire with 12.7 & 14.5 mm is going to be very heavy and that is not counting all the missiles, large cal. anti aircraft, and hand held missile systems. Every group of people you see have pickups with anti aircraft weapons in them. This is an open invitation for us to enjoy the pleasures of going into a war we cannot win, politically or militarily as this is a sectarian civil war that has been in progress for many years, possibly hundreds of years.

  • TonyC.

    The real reason for theese flights is to determine if the ISIS fighters have SAM’s. The use of MANPADS would be a game changer for any engagement. Even Apache’s could have trouble with MANPADS.

  • Dennis M. Didier

    If an FA 18 is hit by ground fire, and the pilot ejects, does he become “boots on the ground?” We should either stay out or declare “weapons free” and let the military win. Stop playing for ties, or worse, another loss.
    Other than Grenada, we haven’t done well at war since WWII.