Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Harrier heroes home after five year tour

After a deployment lasting five years on operations in Afghanistan, the Joint Force Harrier’s last remaining squadron returned home today, to their base at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland.

The Joint Force Harrier fleet is a combined Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm unit that first deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan in May 2004 in support of the NATO led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Since then the Harrier Force has flown in excess of 22,000 hours on a total of over 8,500 sorties mainly supporting ground troops in the southern province of Helmand.

As well as flying ‘show of force’ and reconnaissance missions the Harriers were most noted for their very successful Close Air Support role support to ground troops. Fitted with rockets and a range of guided bombs the Harriers flew over 2,000 Close Air Support missions during the deployment.

Commenting on five years of high intensity war-fighting the RAF Cottesmore Station Commander and Harrier Force Commander, Group Captain Ken McCann said:

“I must pay tribute to the outstanding and unflinching contribution the men and women of Joint Force Harrier have consistently delivered in providing peerless Close Air Support during this extended period. The Harrier Force has undoubtedly saved the lives of countless personnel, service and civilian, on the ground throughout the country – a magnificent effort.”

The Officer Commanding 1(F) Squadron, Wing Commander Dave Haines, described the impact the Harriers had on the enemy:

“Taliban fighters would flee in terror when they heard the deafening roar of Harrier jets giving shows of force when the troops were under fire.”

On Close Air Support he added:

“After ensuring we’re not going to harm 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.”

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