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Raf Typhoon returns home

After 6 months and 1 day supporting the UK mission over Libya as part of Operation Ellamy RAF Typhoons have left Gioia del Colle in Italy and returned home to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. The return of the aircraft being one part of the strategy to optimise the air contribution to the current and future campaign which the RAF continues to fully support with 16 Tornado GR4s.

Typhoon missions over Libya have taken place 24 hours a day 7 days a week, in all weathers, since the operation began in March and the Typhoon Squadrons have clocked up over 3000 flying hours.

Officer Commanding 906 Expeditionary Air Wing, Group Captain Squires, commented on the Typhoon’s vital contribution to the operation.

“The Typhoon’s contribution to enforcing the UN Resolution to protect the Libyan civilians has been immense. From the Prime Minister’s initial direction for the UK military to help the deteriorating Libyan situation, the Typhoons were overhead Tripoli in a matter of days and have been operating over Libya day and night ever since, applying relentless pressure against Qadhafi’s forces, denying them the ability to brutally oppress their people. The skill, determination and professionalism of the pilots and engineers alike, combined with the potent capability of an aircraft which can switch from air to ground and air to air tasking in a moment’s notice has been exceptional and earned them a superb reputation within NATO. The Typhoon force can return home extremely proud of their immense contribution to NATO’s Operation Unified Protector.”

Taking over the reigns from XI Squadron in June, Officer Commanding 3 Fighter Squadron, Wing Commander Patounas, reflected on their time in theatre.

“The key thing in all of this is the Libyan people; we’ve been acting in support of them. At the beginning of this campaign you had a dictator with an iron fist on a nation, but now hopefully the Libyan people can start to find their own feet. That’s massively satisfying and it’s been an absolute privilege to be a part of that.”

In order to protect the civilian population Typhoon and Tornado aircraft have been used in both a reconnaissance role and for carrying out precision strikes on military targets across Libya . Wing Commander Patounas described the scale of a regular sortie, which could sometimes be up to 7 hours long.

“To give you an idea of the distances we were covering; every sortie over Libya is the equivalent of launching from Oslo, flying to London, looking for a target, finding one and striking it. Then flying to Paris to look for another target before flying to Luxembourg to do exactly the same and then flying back to Oslo to land.”

The pressure and demands that have been placed on the Typhoon air and ground crews has, at times, been palpable and unrelenting, but they have been faultless in their task and the aircraft has surpassed all expectations. Flight Lieutenant Kiely, a front line Typhoon pilot on exchange from the Australian Air Force spoke of his experience.

“It’s been extremely challenging; responsibility for locating, identifying and successfully prosecuting targets lies purely in the hands of the guy in the cockpit, so with that comes quite a lot of pressure; it requires impeccable judgment to ensure we get it right. The biggest challenge has been interpreting what’s been happening on the ground, sometimes with a really difficult picture, but to my knowledge we haven’t got that wrong and that has to be my highlight. For me to be able to have served on the Typhoon on Operation Ellamy is a tremendous honour and one that I will be proud of for the rest of my life.”

Commenting on the return of the Typhoon to Coningsby Gp Capt Sammy Sampson offered:

‘I am incredibly proud of everything the Typhoon Force and the communities of RAF Coningsby and Leuchars have done. Typhoon is a superb aircraft which has proven itself to be world class thanks to a superb effort from our pilots with excellent support from our groundcrew and industry personnel’.

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