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RAF Tornado’s have been operating at such a pace in support of NATO’s Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, aimed at protecting the civilian population of Libya from attack, they have now clocked up over 7000 flying hours; that’s the equivalent of approximately 2 years worth of training sorties back in the UK, at a much increased flying rate.
Operating from Gioia del Colle air base in southern Italy the tempo of operations has been relentless, and 9 Squadron has been at the forefront of the mission.
The Tornado Squadron was one of the first fast-jet squadrons to deploy to the area, Officer Commanding 9 Squadron, Wing Commander Andy Turk, explains how quickly they had to prepare.
“We deployed here at very rapid notice, we had returned from our pre deployment training exercise (Red Flag) in the United States. In fact, we got back on the Monday, by the Wednesday we were ‘spinning up’ for Ops and on the Friday we were prepared to launch; a historic 3000 mile storm shadow sortie, the first UK launched combat sortie since the Second World War.”
With nearly 30 years frontline Service, the Tornado aircraft have been proving their worth.
Over the skies of Libya they have integrated closely with the Typhoons; indeed with their combined, multi-role capabilities they have proven to be a ‘powerful and potent’ force. Wg Cdr Turk described how this integration has contributed to the success of the RAF’s air campaign and has earned the respect of the coalition.
But its not all about the aircrew, the engineers and Air Maintenance Mechanics (AMMs) of 9 Squadron have been working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to keep the Tornado aircraft flying, allowing them to complete all their missions, it’s been a huge team effort. Wg Cdr Turk added.
“We’re a really tight team, from the engineers to the aircrew. With the rapidly changing environment that we’re operating in, we have frequently had to scramble aircraft to support the ground effort in Libya and protect their civilian population from attack.”
Despite the unyielding pace of operations, the Tornado force has never failed to deliver, reaching almost 1400 sorties in just over 6 months.
Source:Royal Air Force