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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tornado Women

Flt Lt Juliette Fleming


Well, our title might sound like a 1950's Pulp film but Agent Triple P is glad to see our first ever all woman ground attack RAF crew safely back from Afghanistan, despite some rather hairy moments when they had to fly at 500mph at 100 feet altitude to scare away a Taliban rocket crew targeting a British base.


Fast woman!


Unfortunately, RAF policy seems to militate against dropping bombs on these people. Supposedly so as not to upset the local civilian population but more likely because they can't afford the bombs in an armed forces that has been hacked to bits by that one-eyed Scottish idiot, Gordon Brown. Still, it has to be a concern that this particular crew are alive to fight another day when a quick squirt from the Tornado's twin Mauser BK-27s would have sorted them out permanently.


Flt Lt Fleming taxis her Tornado GR at RAF Marham this week

Flt Lt Juliette Fleming is, we have to say, rather more attractive than your average RAF pilot so she must be a Godsend to the publicity types. Agent Triple P's family has quite a strong RAF connection (grandfather was RFC pilot in Avro 504s during WW1, great uncle a Hurricane pilot in WW2 and uncle a pilot post war) and, in the 70th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain, we feel that it is important to give Flt Lt Fleming (and her co-pilot Nikki Thomas) their due after flying 24 combat missions.


A 31 Squadron Tornado in flight


Flt Lt Fleming's unit is 31 Squadron which was formed in 1915 and was almost immediately sent to India. In 1919, ironically, the squadron saw service in Afghanistan during the evacuation of Kabul.


Vickers Valentia transport bombers


In 1939 the squadron was equipped with the obsolete Valentia biplanes which were able to provide a dual transport/bombing role. The squadron stayed in India until 1947 when it was disbanded, then reformed in Hendon. In 1955 the unit moved to Germany and was equipped with Canberras. These were replaced by Phantoms in 1971, Jaguars in 1976 and then the Tornado GR1 in 1984. The unit is now based at RAF Marham where, with 9 Squadron it forms the Marham Tornado Strike Wing.


Tornado GR4


The squadron flies Tornado GR4s which is the upgraded version of the original GR1 and was firts introduced in 1996 incorporating lessons learned in the 1991 Gulf War. The original Tornado was a UK, German, Italian co-venture. Now rather elderly (the prototype first flew in 1974) the plane is unusual in that it has seen combat with all four nations that bought it. Britain, Italy and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf War and Germany in Kosovo. The latter being the first combat operations conducted by the Luftwaffe since World War 2.

31 Squadron Tornados amongst others at RAF Marham, King's Lynn, Norfolk


Its distinctive, large tail gives it an aggressive, hunched demeanour on the runway which makes it one of Triple P's favourite-looking contemporary fighter planes.

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