Monday, October 26, 2009

Marine turned RAF pilot battles IEDs over Afghanistan

Ex-Royal Marine Flight Lieutenant Phil Rossiter has switched services to go from the ground to the air in Afghanistan where he is helping the fight against improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Flt Lt Rossiter is on his first operational tour as an RAF officer but is no stranger to Afghanistan having served at Bagram Air Base in Parvan province as a Royal Marine.

He is now a Tornado GR4 pilot in 14 Squadron, based at RAF Lossiemouth.

Flt Lt Rossiter, who joined the Marines as a 'boy soldier' in 1996, explained:

"I joined the Royal Marines for the physical and mental challenges, but after several years of service I decided I wanted to be tested in a totally different environment.

"The Royal Air Force offered me this challenge and I joined in 2003.

"I had a fantastic time in the Marines and wouldn't change my time with them but flying a Tornado GR4 is as exhilarating as you would imagine it to be!"

While the Tornado jet is capable of delivering a wide variety of weapons, including Brimstone and Paveway IV, with breathtaking accuracy, it is in the role of tactical reconnaissance in which the aircraft excels.

Using RAPTOR (Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado), the aircraft can provide high resolution images from distances in excess of 25 miles (40km), allowing intelligence to be gathered unnoticed.

The aircraft's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role is vital in the battle against improvised explosive devices.

A system called Litening III provides real-time imagery to soldiers on the ground enabling them to see round corners and over the walls of Taliban compounds.

Flt Lt Rossiter has found his tour in Afghanistan rewarding:

"It feels good to directly support the troops on the ground. I have an enormous sense of pride in what I do and I know I am doing something worthwhile.

"The intensive pre-deployment training has prepared me well for flying in this challenging environment. There is a sense of accomplishment having completed my first operational tour and supporting the Afghan people to achieve security and peace."

Flt Lt Rossiter returns home this month and said:

"I have missed my family and friends. Rather strangely I have even missed the Lossiemouth weather! After six months in blazing sunshine I hope to go skiing when I get back."

Speaking about his experience over the last few months, he said:

"I want to continue flying on the front line; after all, that is what I joined to do!"

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