A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 assigned to the IX Bomber Squadron from Royal Air Force Station Marham, United Kingdom, takes off during Red Flag 14-1, 28 January 2014 (Image © Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler / USAF)

Middle East rebels “save” British Tornados

A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 assigned to the IX Bomber Squadron from Royal Air Force Station Marham, United Kingdom, takes off during Red Flag 14-1, 28 January 2014 (Image © Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler / USAF)
A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 from Royal Air Force Station Marham, United Kingdom, takes off during Red Flag 14-1, 28 January 2014 (Image © Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler / USAF)

The Royal Air Force’s No 2 Squadron, flying the quickly aging Panavia Tornado GR4 interdictor strike aircraft, has gotten life support from an unexpected corner of the world: the same so-called Islamic State (ISIS) rebels some of the unit’s aircraft and crew are currently trying to decimate in the Syrian and Iraqi landscape.

The officially 16 aircraft of the unit based at RAF Marham, Norfolk, England, were destined to become scrap metal as of March next year, but British prime minister David Cameron confirmed on 1 October 2014 that has now been postponed by a year. It means good news for the GR4 crews and fans, but it also shines a light on the less-then-readiness of the Typhoon that should take up the combat role of the Tornado. Apparently not only the German Air Force is suffering greatly from technical problems, but the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighters seem also less than available to do a flexible job.

Mr. Cameron’s office however, has a plain explanation: “The Typhoon was primarily designed for aerial combat and patrolling our airspace.” In the near future the new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II will be tasked to take up the Tornado’s role, but despite more than 100 of the new stealthy fighter have been produced none is combat ready.

Meanwhile a fourth pair of Tornado GR4s have been sent to RAF Base Akrotiri at Cyprus to join the six already there to fight ISIS in Iraq, including providing air support to Kurdish forces on the ground with laser guided bombs (Paveway IV) and missiles (Brimstone). The mission is supported by 300 personnel at the Mediterranean island.

No 2 Squadron is now planned to be decommissioned in April 2016, but as British government officials have said that fighting the ISIS rebels might take another three years, extra years of life support to the Marham based Tornados looks eminent.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

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