Friday, October 30, 2009
ICE-COOL RAF pilots launched a pinpoint attack on the Taliban to save Our Boys.
They fired on guerillas lurking just 100 metres from British troops.
It was the first time such a high-risk mission had been carried out in Afghanistan and one tiny slip would have been fatal for the UK forces.
The Top Gun team swooped in their Tornado jets after getting a mayday call.
Brit squaddies were pinned down near Lashkar Gah in lawless Helmand province.
Squadron Leader Tim Lindsay, 33, told the Daily Star Sunday: “It’s what we call ‘danger close’, meaning it’s close enough for our fire to provide a hazard to the friendly troops.”
But Tim and fellow flier Wing Commander James Linter used a combination of the latest weaponry and old-school skills to ensure they didn’t hit their own men.First the pilots zoomed in with state-of-the-art Raptor targeting pods.
They provided real-time TV and infra-red images on screens in the jets’ cockpits.
Pictures were beamed down to the troops to ensure they had the right targets.
The squaddies then fired green smoke canisters to mark their own positions.
Tim said: “If you rush in there may be a risk you put ordnance where it isn’t meant.” He and W/Cdr Linter put their 990mph jets into shallow dives and opened up with 1,700-rounds-a-minute Mauser 27mm cannons.
It was the first time UK pilots had used them in anger in Afghanistan.
Dad Tim added: “I’ve never strafed danger close before.
“To be firing your gun with friendlies 100 metres away is something you never see – it’s certainly something you cannot do in training.
“We were able to make them break contact and stop the enemy forces firing. Our troops were able to get back safely to base another way. You are trained to cope with all these pressures and the training does kick in.”
It was one of a series of firsts for the Tornado Wing, which replaced Harriers protecting Our Boys in the spring.
The force, from 12 (Bomber) Squadron with elements of 617 Squadron – the historic Dambusters – and 14 Squadron, battled 50C heat to fly six missions a day.
They were extra-busy during the Afghan elections and watched over UK soldiers battling in the huge Panther’s Claw offensive.
They were also the first to use the brand-new Brimstone guided missile in action, destroying a Taliban sniper position.
The missile has a smaller blast area, lessening risks to innocent bystanders.
W/Cdr Linter said: “We have got a range of weapons we can use and the gun was particularly good.
“There are British and coalition soldiers who owe their lives to the work we have done.”