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Tornado crews scramble into action in Afghanistan

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Published on Sep 14, 2010

On the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain RAF crews are still scrambling into action

Royal Air Force pilots continue to scramble into action in Afghanistan in the same way they did 70 years ago during the Battle of Britain. Tornado GR4 pilots and their navigators from XIII Squadron based in Kandahar are currently on daily standby to provide Ground Close Air Support (GCAS) to UK troops across Helmand province.

"The Battle of Britain was an air-to-air campaign and we're conducting a land centric campaign in Afghanistan; however what we do is ground launched close air support which is very similar. Literally the hooter will go off in air operations, the boys will scramble to the aircraft as soon as possible, hopefully within 30 minutes, normally within 16 to 17, and we're airborne and on our way to a task," said Wing Commander Howie Edwards, Officer Commanding XII Squadron.

The Tornado detachment in Afghanistan conducts a full range of operations, this includes close air support for UK and ISAF troops across the whole of Afghanistan and reconnaissance missions with the RAPTOR imagery pod.

"Our primary role is close air support. We operate at round 10 -- 15,000 feet above the guys on the ground. While they're working, we're there to provide armed reconnaissance and armed over watch for what they do. If they do get into trouble they can call us in. We can either do a show of force and if needs be we can go kinetic, which is the last option," said Flight Lieutenant and Tornado pilot Graeme Muscat.

He continues, "Before we come on state, we do what is called 'cock the jet'. We start the engines up, we do all the system checks and get the jet in a state of readiness, so that when we run out when the alarm goes, we pretty much just jump in and start the engines."

XII Squadron currently has 10 Tornado GR4 aircraft in theatre. It is a variable geometry, two-seat, day or night, all-weather attack aircraft, capable of delivering a wide variety of weapons. Each carries a RAPTOR reconnaissance and imagery pod, Paveway IV guided bombs, the Brimstone dual mode seeker missile, and a 27mm Mauser cannon capable of firing 1700 rounds per minute.

"Helmand from here for us is quite close, it's 12 minutes away. This means we can get air borne in quick time, be overhead providing reassurance and establish communications with the Joint Tactical Air Control (JTAC) on the ground to provide support," said Wing Commander Edwards.

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