Typhoons and Royal Navy helicopters complete Libya mission and return to UK bases
After six months and one 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. Meanwhile Royal Navy helicopters returned to Cornwall at the successful completion of the mission.
The return of the aircraft is 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.”
Also today Royal NAvy fliers who paved the way for Apache helicopter strikes against Colonel Qadhafi’s forces are safely home too.
Nearly 50 members of 857 Naval Air Squadron today touched down at their Cornish base after four months away, flying over Libya in support of NATO operations enforcing UNSCR 1973.
Using two Mark 7 Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopters, crews flew almost 100 operational sorties over Libya - all at night and usually lasting around three hours. In one month alone, the helicopters were airborne for nearly 150 hours. The squadron only returned from Afghanistan in December, where it proved vital in large drugs busts and surveillance missions.
The squadron was only due to go sea for around six weeks in the spring, to prove the UK’s new response force of ships and aircraft could stand ready. But in late May it was ordered to support operations off Libya and all the people, kit and helicopters were shifted to the 20,000 tonne helicopter carrier HMS Ocean. The mission was to clear a path for the Apaches – finding safe routes in and out of Libya without being spotted. They also fed back real-time information about ground movements in Libya, passing vital information back to headquarters in Britain and at NATO for analysis.