RAF Harries Return From Afghanistan.

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RAF Harriers Return

After five years of continuous operational flying in Afghanistan the RAF and Royal Naval pilots from the Joint Force Harrier formation are on their way home.

1 (Fighter) Squadron's Harriers have been supporting British and NATO coalition personnel by providing vital air cover, ground close air support and strikes against insurgents in theatre

The pilots and support staff from the joint group started coming home on Wednesday, 24 June 2009. The Harrier jump jets are being replaced in Afghanistan by Tornado GR4 strike jets from 12 Squadron, based at RAF Lossiemouth in Morayshire, which arrived in theatre over the last few days.

Since 2000, the RAF and the Navy's Fleet Air Arm have flown Harriers together under the Joint Force Harrier formation. Navy and Royal Marines pilots have therefore been fighting alongside their RAF comrades, supporting British and NATO troops, since the Harrier first arrived in Afghanistan in 2004.

Every Harrier pilot from every Harrier squadron has taken part in the battle against the Taliban. Over the past five years more that 22,000 hours have been flown on more than 8,500 sorties, mainly over Helmand province.

The last squadron of Harriers to have operated in Afghanistan is 1 (Fighter) Squadron, the RAF's oldest squadron formed in 1912, from RAF Cottesmore in Rutland. The squadron has been in Afghanistan four times before, alternating with the RAF's 4 Squadron and the Fleet Air Arm's Naval Strike Wing.

Wing Commander Dave Haines, 1 (Fighter) Squadron's Commanding Officer, says that Taliban fighters would 'flee in terror' when they heard the deafening roar of Harrier jets giving 'shows of force' when troops were under fire:

"We deliver an awesome effect," he said. "Our guys on the ground can guide us to the enemy using TV data links. After making sure that we're not going to harm any civilians, we can fire our missiles from such a distance that the insurgents don't even know we're there; sometimes the last thing they hear is the crack of a missile's sonic boom before it hits.

"We're here at the invitation of the Afghan Government," he added. "We do absolutely everything we can to make sure that civilians are safe; they're the people we're fighting for."

Captain Michael Carty, Royal Marines, has been fighting Taliban terrorists since 2002, first as a troop commander with 45 Commando leading Marines into battle, and now as an elite Harrier pilot:

"I used to lead 35 lads on the ground," he said, "that gives me a great appreciation of what it's like for those in the field."

Captain Carty now helps to keep insurgents at bay while RAF and Royal Navy helicopters fly medics into battle to extract wounded soldiers from the front line:
Captain Michael Carty Royal Marines

"It makes me really proud," he said. "Even helping our guys in a small way is fantastic.

"Whether we're keeping an eye out for insurgents while the troops are clearing a compound, or warning patrols about suspicious activity, I get huge satisfaction from knowing I've done my bit."

As well as using their awesome firepower to strike the Taliban, 1 (Fighter) Squadron's pilots have been helping wounded troops in a different way - by flying stuffed toys over Afghanistan in a fundraising effort nicknamed 'Operation Cuddly Toy'. Pilot Flight Lieutenant Ben Plank explained:

"For $10 we'll fly a cuddly toy into battle and take some photos of it when we're safely on the way back to base. We've raised over $9,000 [£5,500] for a range of charities, including Combat Stress and Help for Heroes. It's great to know that we can help guys who've been wounded to adjust when they get home."

After a long, hard deployment, 1 (Fighter) Squadron's personnel are now looking forward to a normal life back in the UK.

Petty Officer Paul Booker, one of many RAF and Navy technicians on the squadron, said:

"I'm really proud to have been here. Without us, none of the aircraft would fly, and without the aircraft the troops wouldn't have the cover they need. It's amazing to have been a part of that.

"Now I just want to get back to see my wife, Caroline. I love her and miss her terribly - it'll be great to be home."
Captain Michael Carty, Royal Marines, has been fighting Taliban terrorists since 2002, first as a troop commander with 45 Commando leading Marines into battle, and now as an elite Harrier pilot:
It just doesn't get much better than that!

Well done to 'em all.
So that's now the countdown to the Harrier Sqn's being scrapped,
but job well done boys :salut:
Well done the JFH boys and girls.

No mention that we've blown all the harrier airframe hours? Still, mud moving GR4s have a larger warload so if it's a one-for-one swap its a good thing - only took them bloody years to update the runway though.
Great to see the RN and even RM personnel involved in JFH being recognised, rather than just those from my own service.

The GR4 guys are already into the thick of it; let's hope their efforts are similarly effective.

Did they take the gun off the GR4 during the upgrade?
Maple said:
Did they take the gun off the GR4 during the upgrade?
The GR4 upgrade deleted one of the 2 cannons fitted to the GR1 to enable the addition of FLIR.

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