The Tornado Force based at RAF Marham today showcased its state-of-the-art technology being used to support ground forces in the Counter Insurgency and Counter Improvised Explosive Device (IED) campaigns. This top class intelligence and surveillance capability, along with the sophisticated weapons, is currently being used on the front line in Afghanistan by the Tornado GR4 fast jets.
Air Officer Commanding No 1 Group, Air Vice-Marshal Greg Bagwell, said:
“The Fast Jets of Number 1 Group have a long and distinguished history of delivering a range of Combat Air Power capabilities on Operations at home and abroad in Defence of UK Territories and interests. The Tornado GR4 is equipped with the latest high-tech enhancements and supported by a motivated and adaptable workforce. They are making a highly valued contribution to the safety and security of both coalition land forces and civilians in Afghanistan.”
The Tornado Force has been patrolling the skies over Afghanistan in support of Operation Herrick since taking over from the Harrier Force in May last year. RAF Marham’s Station Commander and Tornado Force Commander, Group Captain ‘Rocky’ Rochelle commented:
“The Tornado Force is capable of increasing degrees of force depending upon the circumstances and if required offers a potent attack option, using a variety of state-of-the-art weapons.”
The sophisticated capability of the Tornado and its surveillance technologies are playing a key role in Afghanistan by preventing mortar attacks on UK and International Forces. Its intelligence systems are also being used to search for IEDs, which is one of the largest threats to our personnel. Officer Commanding, 31 Squadron, Wing Commander ‘Windy’ Gale, said:
“A key role of the Tornado on Operations is to gather intelligence. The state of the art surveillance technology allows us to identify targets on the ground which enables us to find Improvised Explosive Devices.”
31 Squadron, who are a part of the Tornado Force, arrived back to the UK in early January from a three month tour of Operations in Afghanistan. 31 Squadron conducted just under 400 sorties with a quarter of those involving Troops in Contact (TIC). Flight Lieutenant ‘Jules’ Fleming, known as, said:
“On my first sortie in theatre we were airborne for just five minutes before we were called to assist troops in contact. They had been fired upon. When they are under attack you can hear it on the radio and hear the guys running. You want to do your best to help them. As they came under fire again, we were then able to help direct an Apache helicopter to come to their aid.”
The showcase for the Tornado GR4 force’s role in Afghanistan comes as the UK prepares to stage a key international conference on future strategy in the country on Thursday. Co-hosted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Afghanistan: The London Conference aims to galvanise the international effort on political and economic progress, as well as on security. It will also allow President Karzai to present his plans for Afghanistan’s future.
It is hoped that the conference will be followed by another in Kabul and then a further conference in 2011, to maintain the momentum in strengthening Afghan leadership, security and building a better future for Afghan people.
The Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth said:
“The core aim of the Conference is to chart the course for Afghanistan for the next 12 to 18 months, for President Karzai to present his plans, and the international community to agree how best to support him. We want the Government of Afghanistan, with our support, to continue to deliver progress on the ground and gradually take more responsibility, delivering on the priorities President Karzai set out in his inauguration speech in November 2009.”
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