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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
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The Royal Air Force has once again deployed Tornado GR4s from its base in Britain against targets in Libya using Storm Shadow missiles. The RAF Tornado aircraft launched from RAF Marham in East Anglia to conduct 8-hour round-trip missions over Libya. Armed with state-of-the-art Storm Shadow missiles, the six GR4 aircraft flew long distance sorties from the Norfolk base to target elements of Colonel Qadhafi’s military command and control facilities and air defence infrastructure.
The Tornado GR4s jets, some from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and some from Marham, were playing a crucial role in protecting Libyan civilians as authorised under United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. The involvement of the Tornados, together with the Typhoon fighters forward located in Italy, means that the UK can strike both air and ground targets as required by NATO.
The Tornado Squadrons have played a leading role in the military operations in Libya since operations began in March, carrying out precision strikes, making use of the GR4’s high-tech Litening 3 targeting pods and a variety of highly precise guided munitions.
“This mission has, once again, proved the GR4’s capability at long range. The engineers and crews comprised of personnel from Marham and Lossiemouth. I feel great pride in having the opportunity to command such an adaptable and capable Tornado force that proves its agility time and time again, “ said Group Captain Pete ‘Rocky’ Rochelle.
Source: Royal Air Force
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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.