Air Force, News Eurofighter, Eurofighter Typhoon, F3 Tornado RAF, French Rafale, Libya, Libyan conflict, RAF eurofighter typhoon, RAF planes in Libya, Royal Air Force, Rupert Joel, Tornado GR4 aircraft, Tornado jets
Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Rupert Joel told reporters at the Paris airshow that pairing the Tornado with the Eurofighter over Libya does not mean that the older jet is babysitting the younger.
While enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya since mid-March, the modern Eurofighter, which had not been used in real-life combat since its introduction in 2003, has generally been accompanied on missions by Tornado jets, which have been used in air-to-ground combat for some 20 years.
“It may seem strange to fly with the Tornados but it’s worked well,” UK Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Rupert Joel told reporters at the Paris airshow.
Asked whether it was not odd that the Typhoon — one of the most modern warplanes on the market today, with a list price of around $125 million — was being accompanied by the veteran Tornado, Joel said the pairing gave the British pilots an edge.
“The advantage of flying ‘mixed pair’ is that there are three different types of weapons available for use as well as the fact that Typhoon can use the benefits of the Tornado, whose pilots have huge experience of air-to-ground missions,” he said.
The British military has admitted that the Typhoon‘s air-to-ground missile attack capability was activated several years earlier than planned but said pilots were well-trained enough to conduct bombing raids.
“It’s true to say we had not done a huge amount of multi-role training before the Libyan conflict,” said Joel, who added the operation has gone well for the Typhoon team so far.
Some military analysts view the deployment of the Typhoon and the French Rafale in Libya as a move to give the two aircraft battlefield credentials in an effort to win orders.
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One of the RAF’s most successful fast jet plane has reached 17 years defending British interests in the South Atlantic while the integrity of UK airspace’s maintenance is ongoing.
The Tornado F3 fighters of 111(F) Squadron based at RAF Leuchars in Scotland have given air defense cover from the Faroe Islands to the Falkland Islands by patrolling UK and NATO Air Policing Area One and by providing aircraft and manpower for 1435 Flight at Mount Pleasant Airfield.
Now in its twilight years, armed F3s and their crews nonetheless maintain a quick reaction alert (QRA) capability 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year to counter any airborne threat in two areas on opposite ends of the globe.
Four Tornado F3s will remain based in the South Atlantic until the autumn when they will be replaced by the Typhoon, the RAF’s latest multi-role combat aircraft, on a one-for-one basis.
The handover will be a historic moment for the veteran fighter which first deployed to the South Atlantic in 1988 to replace the Phantom F1.
The deployed Tornado F3s will then be dismantled in the Falkland Islands before being flown back to the UK where they will be ‘recycled,’ and used as spare parts for the Tornado GR4 aircraft currently operating in support of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, 111(F) Squadron will continue to support UK operations as part of Northern QRA. The Tornado F3 Force will finally stand down in 2011.
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The first Typhoons to be deployed overseas have touched down in the Falkland Islands. The aircraft, from RAF Coningsby, flew into the South Atlantic Islands to take over Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties from the Tornado F3s that will return to Britain later this year.
Squadron Leader Rich Wells and Flight Lieutenant James Bolton made RAF history by flying the state-of-the-art high tech jets for 18 hours from the UK to the Mount Pleasant Complex (MPC), stopping off at Ascension Island located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
During the trip the pair were accompanied by air-to-air refuelling tankers (VC10s and a TriStar), and as they flew into the MPC were joined by two F3s from 1435 Flight and a Hercules.
Sqn Ldr Wells, the first to land, said: “I think both of us are incredibly proud especially as it was a Typhoon first.”
Two more Typhoons will be flown in to join the first two, to take over from the four Tornados of 111 Squadron based at RAF Leuchars.
The Tornado F3 fleet is to be taken out of service in 2011.
A Typhoon advance party was flown into the Falklands prior to the aircraft’s arrival and engineers drawn from the Typhoon squadrons at RAF Coningsby are also now at the MPC ready to look after the aircraft.
The Typhoon has taken on the QRA duties for the British Forces South Atlantic Islands and police the skies above the Falkland Islands.