RAF Tornado GR4 crews from 2 Squadron have returned home from Gioia del Colle, Italy, after supporting NATO’s Operation Unified Protector over Libya.
The Ministry of Defence announced on August 25 that servicemen and women from 2(AC) Squadron are returning to RAF Marham, Norfolk, after supporting UK missions over Libya as part of Operation Ellamy.
Tornado missions over Libya have taken place every single day since operations began in March 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.
Addressing his Squadron at Gioia del Colle airbase, Officer Commanding 2(AC) Squadron said,
“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 August 18, 2011, crews from 2(AC) Squadron engaged a moving patrol craft that had been commandeered by pro-Qadhafi forces (PQF). The PQF had been defending the Az Zawiyah oil refinery – a key source of oil for the Qadhafi regime – when a NATO airstrike 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 crew to engage the vessel with a Paveway IV bomb.
On August 19, the Tornado GR4s deployed to Gioia del Colle, Italy, for Operation Ellamy were handed over to 9 Squadron, also from RAF Marham, which has taken over their role in Libya from 2 Squadron.