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RAF Tornados leave Afghanistan for the last time

Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s have left Afghanistan and are heading back to the UK after more than five years of operations in the country.

The fast jets, from 31 Squadron based at RAF Marham, Norfolk, left Kandahar airfield early this morning having flown their final missions.

Aircrew and ground crew from the squadron have provided vital support to NATO efforts in the country since they took over from RAF Harriers in June 2009.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

The Tornado remains the fast jet workhorse of the RAF and has performed superbly over many years in Afghanistan, supplying life saving intelligence and precision weapons in support of our mission there.

The whole Tornado force should be proud or their work and I pay tribute to their professionalism.

31 Squadron aircrew
31 Squadron aircrew take their final walk to their Tornado GR4s at Kandahar [Picture: Corporal Andrew Morris RAF, Crown copyright]

During its time in Afghanistan the Tornado GR4 has provided vital information about enemy activity on the ground, using the Litening III and RAPTOR reconnaissance pods to spot potential hazards such as roadside bombs.

The jets have also provided close air support deterring enemy forces by flying low and fast over their location or striking important targets with precision.

Air Chief Marshal Andrew Pulford, Chief of the Air Staff offered:

The Royal Air Force – and indeed Royal Navy – fast jet contribution to Afghanistan, firstly through the Joint Harrier Force and subsequently the RAF Tornado force, has shown the UK Armed Forces continued ability to provide decisive and potent air power whenever and wherever it is needed.

A 31 Squadron Tornado GR4
A 31 Squadron Tornado GR4 is prepared for its flight back to RAF Marham [Picture: Corporal Andrew Morris RAF, Crown copyright]

He continued:

The Tornado force contribution to this operation over the last 5 years has undoubtedly saved lives and should rightly be celebrated.

Nevertheless, our operational focus and that of the Tornado force must now turn to Iraq where, as in Afghanistan, we will continue to support our allies.

Air and ground crew will now make their way via RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, to RAF Marham where they will be welcomed home by friends and family.

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