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The Air War on ISIS
Aired November 1, 2017 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN 10 ANCHOR: This is a special edition of CNN 10 and we`re happy to have you watching it. My name is Carl Azuz, broadcasting from the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Our focus today is on something called Operation Inherent Resolve. This is an international effort to rid the world of the ISIS terrorist group.
We discussed how ISIS, an acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, wanted to create a caliphate, a government based on its severe interpretation of Islam. It`s swept across the Middle East in 2014, taking control of towns, cities, oil and gas fields.
ISIS became infamous for its ruthless mass murder of civilians, for enslaving thousands of people and for destroying or looting ancient monuments and artifacts. But since 2014, the terrorist group has lost a lot of ground.
Today, it controls only a fraction of the territory it did three years ago. This summer, it lost control of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, and this fall, it lost control of Raqqa, what ISIS called its capital in Syria.
Much of the damage on the terrorist has been inflicted from the skies. That`s one major component of Operation Inherent Resolve. Its mission, to defeat ISIS, was established in 2014.
It involves dozens of countries from around the world. It`s led by the U.S. It`s come at a cost of millions of dollars per day, but its effects have led to a ruin for much of the terrorist organization.
And today, we`re giving you a bird`s eye view of its impact on ISIS.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It`s impossible to think that any of the gains that had been made in the fight against ISIS, that those would have been possible without air power.
SUBTITLE: Since August 2014, America and its allies have been at war with ISIS.
The coalition has conducted over 20,000 air strikes.
Hundreds of civilians have died as a result.
PLEITGEN: The air war against ISIS consumes so much of the money on the fight against ISIS. And it`s so complex and it`s really, really expensive and a lot bigger than you`ll see on TV.
SUBTITLE: The campaign is called "Operation Inherent Resolve".
CNN visited two undisclosed air bases in the Persian Gulf that are at the heart of the effort.
This is the story of what it takes to drop a bomb.
The Air War on ISIS.
PLEITGEN: If anything there goes wrong, it can have catastrophic effects.
(voice-over): The air war eats up more than two thirds of the cost of the entire anti-ISIS campaign. That`s almost $13 million every day.
Now, to drop even a single bomb, the U.S. Armed Forces have assets at every elevation, from sea level, to the edge of space.
You need on the ground intelligence. You need a bird`s eye view of the battlefield. You need to keep planes in the air. You need planes to drop the bombs. Of course, you need to deliver ammunition and supplies to drops on the ground.
We went on a mission to rearm frontline troops in Iraq. These flights are both critical and dangerous.
(on camera): I think that we`re going to take off and probably landing in some makeshift air strip somewhere, offload the weapons and then get out.
I think they want to spend as little time as possible on the ground.
It`s a pretty serious mission, isn`t it, and getting ammunitions to the frontline groups I think is important and at the same time, probably not very easy to do also for the pilots.
We`re carrying surface to surface rockets for frontline troops fighting against ISIS. So, this is a very urgent cargo I would say.
ISIS that hides in the population, it`s very difficult to see where they are. They could just take regular cars and go somewhere. It has to be really, really hard to bring the power, the air force, to bear without causing more damage than what you`re actually trying to achieve.
If anything there goes wrong, they can have catastrophic effects.
(voice-over): For this war, America needs lots of bombs. And this is where they`re assembled, a bomb farm where Vietnam era ordnance is outfitted with GPS guidance kits, turning them into smart weapons. They can build up to 15 bombs every hour.
(on camera): I`m surprised, there`s a lot of bombs out there throughout the heat. That doesn`t matter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That doesn`t matter. There`s no really hazards for handling this. You could drop this from a truck and it wouldn`t detonate.
As its flying through the air, this thing is going to acquire several satellites, and will keep acquiring satellites until the target impact.
PLEITGEN: The fact that a guidance kit for a smart bomb cost around $20,000, that`s every single time there`s a strike with one of these.
That`s not even taking into account the money that you pay for the bomb itself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s actually surprising what these do. This can impact the ground straight down, or flies straight inside of a building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daddy builds things that take care of bad guys. That`s about the easiest way to describe what I do to a 7-year-old.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Again, our breaking news tonight, the U.S. military has conducted air strikes against an ISIS position.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Call to action against ISIS.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, fight against ISIS is why we`re here. That`s our job. That`s not going to change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S.-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And ISIS says a senior leader has been killed in Syria.
SUBTITLE: The coalition has conducted over 20,000 air strikes, between 2014 and 2017.
But sometimes things go horribly wrong.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. military did not do its homework to really analyze the targets.
MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: At least 40 people were killed when an airstrike hit a mosque.
SUBTITLE: The airstrikes resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These weapons were designed for large battle space, large buildings. We have very particular targets they were originally designed for. The whole purpose of us being here is to make sure that we`re able to support the civilians and give them their country back.
We`re also having to make sure that we don`t cause undesired effects unto the civilian populace.
When those happened, there`s an investigation. And we start looking at, where did things go wrong? Was it something that we executed fully in our part, or was it everything was done correctly and it`s just a fog of war? Or was it a situation where ISIS, they move bodies in there?
SUBTITLE: A popular ISIS tactic is to move civilians into active combat zones as shields.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We absolutely go back, investigate and determine what are the lessons learned and what do we need to do better next time?
PLEITGEN: So, you can`t drop a bomb if you don`t know when and where to strike. And that`s why intelligence is so important. And this strange looking jet from the 1950s is still one of the best at getting that intel and finding ISIS fighters. It hits a top altitude of around 70,000 feet, forcing pilots to wear a spacesuit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we`re able to help prepare the battle space by finding the opportunities that they may be able to seize so they can prevail over our adversaries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We provide a huge amount of intel to combat commanders around the world at very high levels of the Pentagon.
PLEITGEN: We were amazed that for this technologically advanced and complicated war, in many cases, really old but upgraded planes are still often the best option.
The international coalition against ISIS has already flown around 150,000 missions over Iraq ands Syria, up to a hundred planes and drones in the air 24/7.
Now, to keep this massive operation rolling, planes need to be refueled in the air. That`s where the KC-10 extender comes in. It carries up to 350,000 pounds of gas.
(on camera): This is a difference between a jet fighter staying in the air for 45 minutes or staying in the air for seven to eight hours and being able to come back again and again and again to attack ISIS positions.
PLEITGEN: The thing that really amazes is how broad the whole effort is. Every single strike that you hear about, every single advance that`s being made would not be possible without all the stuff that`s flying in the air. It certainly is a lot of resources that are used to conduct all this.
SUBTITLE: Since CNN visited, collation forces helped drive ISIS out of Mosul and helped retake key parts of Raqqa.