Following a period of calm weather, thunderstorms returned and it was humid in the Mediterranean at our Cyprus base. I had just come back from a flight over Syria when this happened.

Two of my flight commandants approached me with an urgent question that they received from Air Operations as I was flying.

They want an IED [improvised explosive device]The factory was destroyed. As quickly as possible.

‘It’s huge. It has several large buildings. It should be completely destroyed by one attack, so that nothing of the bomb-makers can salvage it in the case of partial damage.

“They believe that it will require 16 weaponry to eliminate it. It must be coordinated with U.S. planes hitting nearby targets simultaneously. This will be an coordinated push so the timetable is set. Is it possible to take this on?

It was obvious and justifiable to destroy the IED factory.

Bomb-makers made suicide vests of all sizes and landmines that they dug in deserted areas and roads.

Before precision-guided weapons, this would have been an impossibility. ¿Dumb¿ weapons in previous conflicts had only worked by saturation, often causing extensive collateral damage

This would have been impossible without precision-guided weaponry. In previous conflicts, ‘dumb’ weapons only functioned by saturation and often caused extensive collateral damage.

Booby traps they concealed in their houses, and even in toys made of plastic that contained explosives enough to explode the fingers of children who discovered them. Their safe haven was no where.

It was difficult to hit 16 targets with one pass from the same formation. This was the first time it had been attempted by the RAF in a long time.

This was impossible prior to precision-guided weaponry. Prior conflicts were characterized by a lack of precision-guided weapons. They had been unable to use saturation as a method to attack, and this often led the victims to suffer extensive collateral damage. More than 90% of the bombs that were dropped on World War II had failed to reach their target.

When Churchill wanted to strike the Nazi experimental-weapons factory at Peenemunde — a secret facility developing the V2 rockets that would later terrorise London — the RAF used 596 heavy bombers for a so-called ‘precision’ attack.

Smart weaponry was still in its early days even after the Gulf War. Unguided bombs and rockets still were being used in Afghanistan at the beginning of 2004.

However, our expectations reached the point where we were expected to hit within a fraction of a second. Without delay. This was on Thursday, with the raid scheduled for Saturday. There were only 36 hours left for preparation.

In a professional sense, I felt excited by the mission — load four Paveway 4 bombs onto each of four aircraft, fly a four-ship group over the target and release all 16 at different aiming points at the same time.

While we have trained for several targets such as this before, the 16th was so rare that we hadn’t practiced it at all, other than to show the concept was possible. Even though this had never been done before I felt confident that it would be possible with the Typhoon.

Though it had never actually been done before, I was confident it was within the Typhoon¿s capability to hit multiple targets like this

Even though it wasn’t something I had ever done, I felt confident that it would be possible for the Typhoon to reach multiple targets such as this.

The top team and I agreed that it was possible, and that my boys were capable of it. After flying together on 2-man missions for several weeks, they would now have to work as fours. The task would need careful, meticulous planning.

The squadron’s mechanics and maintenance engineers would be under immense strain launching four aircraft. They were unable to move. The fast jets do not behave like cars. They can clock up mileage and book services when they flash.

Daily inspections were required of the aircraft. Every sortie required engineering to be planned, managed and programmed. Maintenance and servicing were always a priority for the Typhoon.

Each component of the aircraft was tracked, and each part had to be subjected to strict maintenance and a logistic chain that relied on an Air Bridge from the UK. This was a difficult task, particularly since the UK had only a handful of engineers.

Sod’s Law was the reason that the Saturday mission was scheduled. Six days in a row, the jets flew. Saturday maintenance allowed for in-depth servicing, as well as time to make more severe corrections or refinements. This mission would require us to request engineers to perform bin maintenance days, which means they could work 24 hours a day and produce double the usual output.

Still, there were only four available jets to service the mission, which is a terrible ratio for such a crucial task. Normaly, in order to make sure a launch is successful, it would be prudent to plan for at least 50% redundancy. That means six planes for four different tasks. You can have five if you need.

They had tracked units of Isis fighters as they moved through urban areas, cleared roads of IEDs, and seamlessly integrated with unmanned aerial vehicles and foreign fast jets.

These men had been able to track ISIS fighters in urban areas and cleared IED roads. They also seamlessly integrated with foreign fast jets and unmanned aerial vehicles.

I am certain that many squadrons would not have complied with the request given the timeline, constraints, and absence of backup. However, we have successfully completed every task. All day, all night, bad weather or good, from multiple locations and under the most difficult of circumstances.

The men came back with remarkable stories every day after executing precision strikes in complex situations. As ISIS fighters moved through cities, they were tracked and cleared of IEDs. Then, the guys seamlessly integrated themselves with unmanned aircraft and fast foreign jets.

They displayed professionalism, restraint and tactical confidence. Extreme circumstances were gradually becoming the norm. The task was approached with a clear, unflinching, objective approach.

We had to endure the occasional scrape or close call, but our team just kept going. Each setback made us all stronger and more connected.

I’ve never experienced such a healthy and strong relationship between pilots, engineers, and operational staff since joining the RAF. It was truly amazing to see the support provided and the willingness to help. It was like everything was possible.

The senior engineer officer Tim Lowing and Jonny Anderson (in charge of tactics and weapons for squadrons) nodded their agreement. We were on.

Any doubts I had would have been dispelled in the intelligence briefing received that day. ISIS began organ harvesting in prisoners. Two teenage girls were hanged in Mosul for their tweets. It was not war crimes, but pure evil that caused the suffering.

We could do it and end this horror house in one go. It would be an enormous tactical victory, as well as a major blow to the Islamic State’s terror campaign.

Over the next 36 hour period, engineers worked in quiet obsession. When dawn broke on Saturday morning the planes were completely fuelled, loaded and ready to go. This was quite an achievement.

Thorney was appointed to the role of Dragon 1. James Turner (JT), James Harkin, (Weasel), and I made up the remaining four-ship crew. The mood was good in the briefing room. This was a good sign for the future.

A warm and dusty breeze blew across the runway, while the sun was high above the clouds. The cockpit was hot. The sweat was already slipping down my back even before the engine started. All things being equal, the flight would take under four hours.

For ten minutes I lay there, my mind empty, with arms resting on sills while I waited to see when the engine would start. The Tarmac was covered in a shimmering heat cloud.

My left and right were the Typhoons, all armed, waiting for the call. After a few seconds, the radio rang and the jets were flying down the runway, each one taking just over 30 seconds to take off.

Isis had begun organ harvesting from prisoners, and had hanged two teenage girls in the centre of Mosul, Iraq, for posting on Twitter.

ISIS began organ harvesting in prisons and hanged two teens from Mosul to post on Twitter.

The aircraft cruised at 35,000 feet. We cruised at 30,000 feet. The plane bobbed gently up and down while we held loosely for our transit out. We crossed into Iraq and met an aerial tanker about one hour later.

We slipped one by one behind the hose and then gassed up with fuel. Then we crossed over to right wing where we were reformed into a four-ship ready for our next target. It was approximately 50 miles from the north.

We began to run for our attack ten minutes later. Splitting the formation into 2 elements was done to reduce the possibility of incidents or accidents.

It also gave the pilots more time for checking their targeting cameras in the lead-up to attack, and conducting the extensive weapon inspections. For any air-to-surface fire, we could keep a close eye on each other’s planes.

One minute before the target was reached, I selected “weapon targeting” in the head up display. Since the strike was authorized at the highest levels, there wasn’t any requirement for radio communications to obtain permission to drop. As always, we had to scan the surrounding area for civilians, or any unanticipated activity.

The enemy compound was empty of any human presence. It was empty of people as well. To live the protection switch, I pulled the button that covers the weapon release button. On my head-up display the symbols switched to show my four jet weapons and the countdown to their release.

Litening’s camera pods perfectly tracked the factory. In my G-suit, my heart raced.

Just seconds before the end, I held down the button to release the weapon, and waited what seemed an eternity for it to drop.

The left sideboard weapon was released and a small explosive cannon fired from the wings. A couple of milliseconds later another thud was heard, this one from the right. And another. Another. The four Paveways were all in the air. It took forty seconds for the Paveways to make impact.

The radio echoed my weapon release, so that everyone could hear it. I was also able to hear their jets’ releases.

We sat in our respective cockpits and watched anxiously the images from the target camera as we counted down the seconds to impact.

It took twenty seconds. Sixteen different weapons flew towards each target. Ten seconds. The stress level increased. Five.

As the guns rammed into the target, I held my breath. The ground below burst into flames with an endless series of blasts and flashes. They vanished in a mass of smoke and dust that rose like a tornado just a few miles up the sky.

It was a terrifying, amazing sight. We could clearly see the results of the strike as the northerly breeze cleared the smoke. An IED factory was located.

There was nothing left. This entire complex was destroyed.

As our time in the sky above Iraq came to an abrupt halt, we were ordered to Fallujah by the Iraqi military to cover a group of troops advancing from Iraq.

Good visibility. It was easy to see in the distance the Zagros Mountains and the River Euphrates slicing through the barren landscape.

Our time patrolling the skies above Iraq was coming to an end when we were directed to Fallujah to provide air cover for a column of advancing Iraqi troops

As our time in the sky above Iraq came to an abrupt halt, we were asked to fly to Fallujah as air cover to a column of moving Iraqi troops.

As the commanders checked the boarded-up houses, two battle tanks led them. A convoy comprising 30 armored personnel carriers sped behind, carrying a number of soldiers ready for battle. The vehicle circled around an IED-damaged tank.

We were asked to track a motorbike that raced down the street. Although it wasn’t difficult to keep up with the 60-mph motorcycle in its Mach 1.8 fighter, it was extremely challenging as the vehicle weaved through narrow alleyways and streets.

To ensure that the motorbike was visible, I would move the camera until it appeared where I intended.

We chased it for about ten minutes before the bike pulled up in front of us and went into hiding. The friendly soldiers were informed of the exact location. There would have been a knock at that door in the later hours of the day.

We were then moved 25 miles from Baghdad to another location after a midair fuelling. We need your help to find suspicious activity from the region between this and the river north.

I made the turn, and then I took off. It had been quite quiet in the area for some time and I didn’t expect to see much.

After spotting what seemed like a people-carrier, I moved the camera to allow me zoom in. It passed by a second car, and then a motorcycle. The dust accumulated as they passed one another.

It had been deserted for many months, and it was hard to understand why the activity suddenly exploded.

The people car slowed down and pulled up in front of a house. The doors opened, and many people got out. The men didn’t seem to be in any hurry. Two men opened the rear of the car and started removing boxes and baskets. From the neighboring house, a dog ran. An alert came from my attack controller. ‘Dragon, they’re civilians. They’re returning home. Over the past 24hrs, we have started to see this. This area seems to be relatively safe. ISIS has not been seen in the area for some time.

Ramadi and Fallujah (pictured in 2004) had suffered massive damage. No aircraft had landed at the nearby airport for years.

Ramadi (pictured in 2004), and Fallujah had sustained severe damage. For many years, no aircraft has landed at this airport.

It was difficult to grasp those few words at first. Our arrival had been six months before. We were already in the middle extremist fighting as ISIS moved south, threatening the borders of Baghdad.

As the battle raged, week by week, the territories were reclaimed house by house. Every small victory was met with bloodshed and sacrifice.

Ramadi, Fallujah and other nearby airports had sustained severe damage. For many years, no aircraft has landed at this airport. The airport was in ruin, with potholes and bomb damage. These small towns were crossed by a highway, which was paved with boulders and abandoned cars. The scene looked as if it had been there for a long time.

I felt a smile crack my face. I felt a smile on my face after watching ISIS advance for months. It was great to finally see that the Iraqi army had taken back control of Iraq and refugee families who fled terror in their villages were allowed to come home.

These communities would need to be revived over time. The future was full of challenges. However, the fighting was over. ISIS was retreating. We’d done our job. We were able to go home.

Adapted from Typhoon: The Inside Story Of An RAF Fighter Squadron At War by Mike Sutton, published by Michael Joseph on November 25 at £20. © 2021 Mike Sutton.

To order a copy for £18 (offer valid to 1/12/21; UK P&P free on orders over £20), visit here or call 0203 176 2937.