The image was thought to be a social media hoax but the Royal Air Force have now confirmed it is genuine.
The Royal Air Force have now confirmed to the UK Defence Journal and other news outlets that the image, created in response to the Manchester attack, is authentic:
“The RAF can confirm the photo was genuine.”
The picture appeared on Twitter earlier with the caption “RAF Armourer on a Reaper UAV squadron wrote this on a Hellfire missile before taking off on a Syria mission”however it is now understood that the image shows a message on a Paveway IV bomb loaded on a British jet carrying out air strikes from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
In addition, The Sun quote a Royal Air Force spokesperson as saying:
“The sentiment of the message is understandable under the circumstances. There’s a history of messages being written on missiles in the RAF. It’s unlikely the individual responsible for it will be disciplined.”
The RAF website describes the bomb in detail:
“Paveway IV significantly increases the RAF’s capability to deliver precision effects matched to the target set. The weapon is cockpit-programmable and allows the aircrew to select weapon impact angle, attack direction and fusing mode to detonate in airburst, impact or post-impact delay modes.
The fuze minimises collateral damage through the ability to detonate the weapon when buried or partially buried, and is fitted with a ‘Late-Arm’ safety functionality that will not allow an off-course munition to arm. The warhead is also designed to meet the latest requirements of NATO Insensitive Munition safety policy.”
What is the current status of the air campaign?
In December 2016, it was reported that the Royal Air Force is operating at its most intense for 25 years in a single theatre of operation which far outstripped the UK involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan – RAF jets have dropped 11 times more bombs (1,276 strikes) on Syria and Iraq in the preceding 12 months than they had in the busiest year of action in Afghanistan a decade previously.
The cost of the operations against Islamic State and other details of the campaign were revealed in a briefing paper. In March 2015 the MoD confirmed that the net additional costs of the military air operation would be met from the Treasury Special Reserve; while the costs of training and equipping the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, and the provision of key enablers, would be met from the MoD’s Deployed Military Activity Pool.
In answer to a parliamentary question in September 2016 the MoD set the costs of the operation, between August 2014 and the 31st of March 2016, at £265 million (£45 million in the 2014-15 financial year, and £220 million in the 2015-16 financial year).