RAF, 31 Squadron Tornado GR4 takes off to attack Syria, 14 April 2018 (Crown Copyright)

RAF 31 Squadron Tornados in Syrian Attack

MOD Releases Photographs of RAF Operations Against Syria

Four Royal Air Force Tornados took off from RAF Akrotiri to conduct strikes in support of Operations over the Middle East. At 0200 UK time on 14 April, British Tornados, flown by 31 Squadron, the ‘Goldstars’, joined close Allies in a precision strike on Syrian installations involved in the use of chemical weapons.

The navigator climbs into the cockpit of an RAF Tornado before the mission to bomb Syria.

The navigator climbs into the cockpit of an RAF Tornado before the mission to bomb Syria.

The UK element of the carefully co-ordinated joint action was contributed by four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s. They launched Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility – a former missile base – some fifteen miles west of Homs, where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapon precursors stockpiled in breach of Syria’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

A Tornado pilot checking the weapons on his Tornado

The pilot checking the weapons on his Tornado. Storm Shadow cruise missiles were used against the target in Syria.

The Panavia Tornado GR.Mk 4 is the UK’s primary ground attack platform and also fulfils an important reconnaissance role. For attacks against pre-planned targets the Tornado GR4 usually employs GPS/laser-guided bombs from the Paveway family, or the Storm Shadow cruise missile, the latter fired from considerable stand-off ranges.

Before the attack, careful scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target the Storm Shadows to maximise the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks of contamination to the surrounding area.

Pilot sits in the cockpit before take off at RAF Akrotiri.

Pilot sits in the cockpit before take off at RAF Akrotiri.

The facility which was struck is located some distance from any known concentrations of civilian habitation, reducing yet further any such risk

Formed at Farnborough in 1915, 31 Squadron was initially an artillery spotting unit deployed in India. During WWII, 31 Squadron was assigned transport duties across the Far East. After the war, the squadron was moved to RAF Laarbruch in Germany where it flew Canberra aircraft. Now based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, 31 Squadron flew the last RAF jet to return from Operation HERRICK. Now they are deployed on Op SHADER, flying out of RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus.

31 Squadron Tornados ready for take off in their mission against Syria.

31 Squadron Tornados ready for take off in their mission against Syria.

The Tornados were supported by a Voyager aircraft. Although not against Islamic State forces, the operation was categorised under codename Op SHADER.


Sources: MOD; RAF.

Images: Crown Copyright, 2018.