WITH VIDEO: RAF Tornados leave Afghanistan

RAF Tornados are heading home after five years. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
RAF Tornados are heading home after five years. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The skies over Afghanistan gradually become a little bit more quiet. In September, Belgian Air Component F-16s left Kandahar airbase, following in the foot steps of NATO E-3A Component AWACS aircraft while in July, Dutch F-16s also ended operations. Now, it’s Royal Air Force Panavia Tornados that return home, ending close to five years of consecutive Afghanistan ops.

The six Tornados and their crew belong to 31 squadron, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk. They left Kandahar early morning on Tuesday 11 November, heading toward RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, which by no accident is the airbase that the Royal Air Force currently uses for air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS) forces in Iraq and Syria. After a stopover, the aircraft will return home to the UK.

Over Afghanistan, the aircraft were used for close air support and intelligence gathering, using their Litening III and RAPTOR reconnaissance pods. Over Iraq and Syria, Tornados of 2 squadron target ISIS forces. The deployment of number 2 squadron to Akrotiri meant that disbandment of the unit, planned originally for next March, has been postponed by a year. It’s the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II that will eventually replace the Tornado in the Royal Air Force, with the Royal Navy also set to use the new fighter.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest