Tornado F3 Gate Guardian

The Tornado Years

Part 2: The Tornado Years

In April 1987 the Phantom Operational Conversion Unit moved from Coningsby to Leuchars Tornado aircraft and, with the arrival in February 1988 of No 5 (AC) Squadron, the Station was now fully committed to Tornado operations.

In line with this change of aircraft, the Tornado Air Intercept Trainer was installed in 1985, and was followed by an Air Combat Simulator and, finally, two Mission Simulators in 1988. Additionally, a modern deep-strip facility for the Tornado's Turbo-Union RB199 engines was installed at the former 'Dambusters' base at Woodhall Spa.

Both Nos 5(AC) and 29(F) Squadrons played an important part in the Gulf conflict; No 5(AC) Squadron was deployed to the Gulf for 3 months in August 1990, flying air defence missions out of Dhahran, whilst No 29(F) Squadron operated out of Saudi Arabia for 3 months from December 1990, flying over 500 missions.

Both squadrons were again involved with out of area operations for Operation DENY FLIGHT, flying out of the southern Italian Base of Gioia del Colle to police the no-fly zone over Bosnia. Additionally, both Station and Squadron continued to support the RAF commitment at Mount Pleasant Airfield in the Falkland Islands and No 5(AC) Squadron was deployed to Al Kharj in support of Op BOLTON. As a result of the Strategic Defence Review, 29(F) Squadron was disbanded in October 1998, a sad occasion for all involved.

Tornado 3-ship in flight Further difficult times were encountered when No 5(AC) Squadron was disbanded in September 2002, followed, not long after, by the relocation of
56(R) Squadron to RAF Leuchars in March 2003. The losses the last remaining Squadrons were compounded by runway renewal works causing the temporary relocation of BBMF through the summer of 2003, leaving RAF Coningsby quiet and superficially subdued. However, beneath the facade there was much work being done and many grounds for optimism.

In addition to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the essential administrative and engineering support needed to run a modern front­line station; Coningsby is also home to the Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit. Their role is to trial any modifications or improvements to the aircraft and to develop the tactics and doctrine to be used by all fast jet squadrons.

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