RAF Tornados at the sharp end in Afghanistan

Tornado GR.4 taxiing in at RAF Marham / © Philip Stevens

Tornado GR.4 taxiing in at RAF Marham / © Philip Stevens

Posted By Philip Stevens

Tornado GR4 squadrons honoured pilots from XIII Squadron who have recently returned to their home base today and demonstrated their role on operations in Afghanistan at RAF Marham in Norfolk.

XIII squadron, one of the four Tornado Squadrons at RAF Marham, recently arrived back in the UK after a 3 month tour on Operations. The Squadron flew approximately 1800 hours in theatre, which is the most hours flown by a Fast Jet Squadron in Afghanistan.

Squadron personnel were presented with their Afghanistan operational medals by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton.

Officer Commanding XIII Squadron, Wing Commander Howie Edwards commented on XIII Squadron’s tenure in theatre:

“We had a very busy period in the summer covering the Afghanistan elections. The terrain is quite inhospitable so some skilful flying was required.”

The formidable Tornado has been patrolling the skies over Afghanistan since October 2009, providing vital support to ground forces, particularly in the efforts to counter the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED).

RAF Marham’s Station Commander and Tornado Force Commander, Group Captain Pete ‘Rocky’ Rochelle said:

“The Tornado GR4 is providing support to ground forces when they come under attack and its sophisticated intelligence and surveillance capabilities are playing a key role by searching for IED’s, which is one of the largest threats to UK and International Forces.”

The Tornado performs a wide array of tasks to protect troops on the ground, from the provision of intelligence information, to an ear-splitting ‘Show of Force’ or the launch of a precision weapon. The role of XIII squadron in Afghanistan was Counter-IED, reconnaissance, Close Air Support and providing support and over watch for both UK and ISAF ground forces.

The Tactical Intelligence Wing (TIW), also based at RAF Marham, worked hand in hand with the Squadron. Within hours of returning from a sortie and after analysis of film gathered from the Reconnaissance Airborne Pod (RAPTOR), and Litening III Targeting Pods, they were able to provide threat warnings to ground troops of possible IED’s.

TIW responds directly to the needs of front line troops by using sophisticated technology, including, Electro-Optical (EO) and Infra-Red (IR) imagery. Officer Commanding TIW, Wing Commander Andrew Stewart said:

”The imagery we provide is absolutely critical to ground forces. If they are planning for an Operation we can provide them with high quality imagery and geographic products which gives the ground troops situational awareness. When we get feedback from troops on the ground it is always complementary. Last week, 2 Para Battle Group Chief Of Staff praised the timely productivity of TIW. Our quick response to his tasking allowed him to conduct operations earlier than planned.”

Source: Squadron Leader Ldr Jenny Dennis – RAF Marham, Media Communication Officer

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