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RAF squadron hands over command of Tornado Force for Libya operations

25 Aug 11

Servicemen and women from 2 (Army Cooperation) Squadron have returned to RAF Marham from supporting UK missions over Libya, having handed over the command of the Tornado Force Element to 9 (Bomber) Squadron.

Tornado missions over Libya have taken place every single day since operations began in March 2011 and the Tornado GR4 Force has racked up over 5,400 flying hours in the last five months - the equivalent of two years' worth of training sorties for one squadron back in the UK.

Before leaving Gioia del Colle air base in southern Italy, where the squadron has been based throughout Operation ELLAMY, Officer Commanding 2 (Army Cooperation) Squadron, Wing Commander Nick Tucker-Lowe, addressed squadron personnel, saying:

"When I look at you all, I see many professional individuals but one amazing team. What we have achieved on Operation ELLAMY will stay with me forever. We have been writing history day by day. We have flown the equivalent distance of around the world 88 times - or, to put it another way, to the moon and back over three times. That is incredible."

Tornado and Typhoon aircraft have been used both in a reconnaissance role and for carrying out precision strikes on military targets across Libya as part of the UK contribution to NATO's Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, which aims to protect Libyan civilians from attack.

The demands placed on the Tornado aircraft and its crews have been unrelenting but man and machine have proven time and time again just how capable they and the platform are.

On 18 August 2011, for example, crews from 2 (Army Cooperation) Squadron engaged a moving patrol craft that had been commandeered by pro-Gaddafi forces. The former regime forces had been defending the Az Zawiyah oil refinery - a key source of oil for the Gaddafi former regime - when a NATO air strike against their vehicles forced them to flee the area.

They attempted to use the patrol craft to rejoin the fight further along the coast, but, as it was clear that they still presented a threat to the Libyan civilians around them, permission was given for the RAF crew to engage the vessel with a Paveway IV bomb.

This was the first time a Tornado crew had used a Paveway IV bomb to take out a moving target of this nature and the strike sent out a clear message to pro-Gaddafi forces - there is nowhere to hide from coalition air power.

Taking over command of the Tornado Force Element, Officer Commanding 9 (Bomber) Squadron (also based at RAF Marham), Wing Commander Andy Turk, said:

"It is a pleasure to take back the reins of the Tornado Force Element of Operation ELLAMY. 2 (Army Cooperation) Squadron have done a fantastic job executing the full range of air power capabilities that the Tornado offers. I very much look forward to continuing this momentum and working as part of NATO to protect the Libyan civilians."

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