As of the third week in March, the U.S. had flown about 12,000 strike sorties against the Islamic State — that is, fighter and bomber missions intended to drop bombs or fire missiles against Islamic State targets. Of those, about one in four — just 25 percent — actually dropped bombs or fired missiles. The rest returned to base without attacking any targets.
In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in late March, Republican Sen. John McCain grilled Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, about the numbers.
“Right now, in our airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, of the 12,000 sorties, 3,000 of them actually drop weapons,” McCain said. “Is that true?”
“I think that’s about right, sir,” said Austin.