Operation Granby was the name given to the British military operations during the 1991 Gulf War. The RAF involvement ended 25 years ago this coming Monday 11th April 2016. In total 53,462 troops were deployed during the conflict. The total cost of operations was £2.434 billion (1992), of which at least £2.049 billion was paid for by other nations such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; £200 million of equipment was lost or written off. Operation Granby took its name from John Manners, Marquess of Granby, a British commander in the Seven Years’ War.
Within 9 days of the invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, 12 Panavia Tornado F3 interceptors from 5 (AC) Sqn and 29 (F) Sqn from RAF Coningsby had arrived in Saudi Arabia, alongside aircraft of the USAF. Later, Jaguar aircraft from RAF Coltishall and Tornado GR1s, redeployed from service in Germany deployed to the theatre. Buccaneer aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth were also deployed in order to laser designate ground targets for the Tornado. This action had the effect of maintaining the confidence of friendly nations, and limiting the potential for further Iraqi expansion. When an economic embargo was placed on Iraq, these aircraft also helped maintain it. The force of F3s was expanded to 18 drawn from the three British bases then housing F3s (Leuchars, Leeming and Coningsby), with 27 air crew and 350 ground personnel. They were based at the Royal Saudi Air Force base at Dhahran, from where they flew patrols inside the range of Iraqi ground radar systems. Before the launch of the operation to liberate Kuwait they flew over 2000 sorties. Hercules, VC10 and TriStar aircraft supplied both the air force and other military endeavours; Nimrod MR.2P aircraft assisted naval operations. At bases in Tabuk, Dhahran and Muharraq, the RAF deployed Rapier missiles as part of surface-to-air defence. In total, around 6,000 RAF personnel were deployed to the Gulf.RAF commanders, along with the other partners in the coalition, deemed it necessary to prevent the Iraqi Air Force (IrAF) operating to any significant degree. Believed to have around 700 combat aircraft, as well as Scud ballistic missiles and chemical weapons, they could not be left to help support Iraqi ground forces, now entrenched in positions on the border. Because of the level of supplies coming from Iraq to forces in Kuwait, it would have been impossible to separate targets merely in Kuwait from an offensive into Iraq. Coalition forces outnumbered the IrAF 3-to-1.
The first part of the Gulf War air campaign was directed against the IrAF. Early on 17 January, the RAF’s Tornado GR1s flew into Iraq, with tanker support. The first targets were Iraqi airbases, which housed a variety of defence systems and aircraft. These attacks were co-ordinated in Riyadh by the Joint Allied Headquarters, with Wratten now leading the British command; aircraft were almost totally integrated into a single coalition force. Support aircraft in raids, therefore, could be from any coalition power. Within 24 hours, a hundred sorties had been run. After seven days, the RAF’s focus, like the rest of coalition air forces, was moved to targets related to the support of Iraqi forces in Kuwait. These included oil refinery and strategic bridges over the River Euphrates.
In every combat role, the RAF was second to USAF involvement, but ahead of other members of the coalition. Of the around 55 Allied aircraft lost, eight were Tornadoes and one a Jaguar; these aircraft types flew a total of 2,500 sorties. Five air crew were lost in operations, and three in preparations.
Back in 1991, the RAF operated three Buccaneer squadrons, Nos 12 & 208 Squadrons and No 237 OCU (Operational Conversion Unit), all based at RAF Lossiemouth. The entire force consisted of about 30 airframes and the role was exclusively maritime attack, with the sole exception of No 237 OCU which also had a reserve war role involving overland Laser designation (target marking), from low level, for Jaguar aircraft. The then AOC 18 Group – Air Marshal Sir Michael Steer – foresaw a possible requirement for overland Laser designation and instructed the Buccaneers to commence the appropriate low-level overland training. However, all the indications were that there would not be such a detachment to the Gulf, simply because there were already too many aircraft for the limited facilities and hard standing area which existed at the airfields used by the RAF in the Gulf area.
Of course, normal training continued and in mid January the two operational squadrons were on detachment, No 12 Squadron in Gibraltar and No 208 Squadron at RAF St Mawgan. About half-way through the planned No 208 Squadron detachment and after some two or three days of hostilities in the Gulf, Sir Michael Steer paid a visit to St Mawgan. He arrived in the same aircraft that was to take Wing Commander Bill Cope (No 208 Squadron) home to Lossiemouth to go on leave. Sir Michael greeted Bill with the message that the Gulf War commanders saw no need for Buccaneer involvement. Bill Cope climbed into the aircraft and returned to Lossiemouth. The aircraft landed at Lossiemouth at 1900 hours.However at 2230 hours he received a call to tell him the plans had changed and his unit now had only 72 hours to deploy to the Gulf.Three days of frantic preparation ensued. Virtually all of the Station was involved in the preparation of the detachment’s six aircraft and its personnel and work continued non-stop day and night. The engineers had to prepare the first batch of six aircraft, installing wartime fits and repainting them in desert camouflage. Crews received anti-chemical and bacteriological warfare jabs, wrote wills and collected extra Nuclear, Biological and Chemical clothing.At 0400 hours on 26 January the first pair of Buccaneers departed Lossiemouth with the paint still wet on the aircraft. A nine hour direct flight with a Tristar tanker took the aircraft over Europe, Egypt and Saudi to the operating base at Bahrain. The ground crew flew by Hercules, a 19 hour flight.
No sooner had the aircraft arrived than training began in earnest. A one week intensive training programme commenced, flying close formation sorties with Tornado bombers and acclimatizing to desert conditions.. The standard operating package was four Tornadoes and two Buccaneers carried the bombs, which were precision targeted using the Buccaneer Laser pod. As the Buccaneer only carries one pod, Laser failure would render the mission unworkable so all aircraft would have to return to base. Thus Buccaneers flew in pairs, to ensure that missions would not be compromised by such an eventuality.Arriving in theatre, the Buccaneer Force flew its first mission, on 2 February. Two Buccaneers, crewed by Wg Cdr Bill Cope (Pilot) and Flt Lt Carl Wilson (Nav) and Flt Lt Glen Mason (Pilot) with Sqn Ldr Norman Browne (Nav), flew with four Tornadoes. They flew a route that was to become very familiar, popularly called ‘Olive Trail’, where they took some fuel on board from a tanker before heading towards the As Suwaira road bridge, at a height of 18,000 feet. The route was in cloud all the way until the final 50 miles where, just as the met team had predicted, there were clear skies. Although the crews knew that their aircraft had been illuminated by Iraqi owned Russian Air Defence systems, there was no enemy attempt to engage and allied AWACS aircraft regularly confirmed that there were no Iraqi aircraft airborne. The bridge was easily identified and the attack successful.
A routine was soon established with daily tasking of mixed Tornado/Buccaneer packages to destroy road bridges over the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, to break the Iraqi resupply lines to their army in Kuwait. Within a week of commencing operations, nine crews were operational and success led to increased tasking. Indeed, the only constraint was the number of aircraft and daylight hours for, unlike modern systems, the Buccaneer Laser pod had no night-time capability. Although the equipment was dated – the navigator had to target the bombs using a roller ball for the 40 seconds between release and impact – the Lasers achieved a 50% success rate which compares well with modern equipment.
In all, the Buccaneer Force is accredited with guiding bombs which destroyed approximately 20 bridges, varying from suspension to double-span motorway bridges. Unknown at the time, the Iraqis had located their fibre optic cables along the same bridges, so every downed bridge also broke a communications line, resulting in disorder at the front line.
It has to be said that there was a lot of improvisation initially as the new aircraft packages were just that – new – and there was little experience on which to base operations. For example, although the squadron Qualified Weapons Instructors were adamant that the best aiming point for suspension bridges was the supporting towers, higher authority disagreed and instructed the crews to aim at the bridge abutments. However, almost immediately this decision was amended and the supporting towers targeted, to great effect. Another lesson quickly learnt was that the two sets of bombs had to detonate simultaneously, otherwise the second set of bombs would be blown off target by the first detonation.
One of the more upsetting aspects of the campaign was having to drop bombs onto bridges without any means of warning road traffic. Sadly, from time to time, there were casualties, though there were also happier moments. On one occasion the navigator was observing a vehicle crossing a bridge when bombs destroyed the first and last sections, leaving the driver marooned but safe in the still intact centre. Alas, not all drivers were so lucky.
It was after one week that Wg Cdr Bill Cope saw his first Surface to Air (SAM). This was not as frightening as it may sound, as a missile which is receiving guidance signals – which is a serious threat – kicks in its trajectory so is easy to recognize. On the other hand, non-guided missiles followed a straight path and are no longer a risk to the target aircraft. Given the presence of American Wild Weasel aircraft – who would shoot their anti-radar ‘HARM’ rockets straight into a guided missile radar unit; during the raids, the Iraqis were highly reticent to switch on the radar; if they had, they quickly switched it off, preferring to launch wildly their weapons. Thus, the allied aircrew could see when the SAMs were not guided and consequently very unlikely to hit.
The ground crew deserve a special mention. Under the sterling leadership of Sqd Ldrs David Tasker and George Baber, aircraft serviceability was indeed impressive and only bettered by the Jaguar Force. There was always at least one spare aircraft and usually two, not bad for an aircraft older than the majority of the personnel in theatre. Indeed, in its 30 years in operation, never had Buccaneer serviceability been better. In fairness, the ground crew had to put up with a lot, including highly stressed aircrew from time to time.
Once the land offensive commenced, the Buccaneer role switched from bridge bombing to airfield attacks, specifically against Hardened Aircraft Shelters, runways and any aircraft on the ground, to ensure the Iraqi Air Force stayed out of the battle. In fact, the Iraqi Air Force showed no inclination to engage and the Buccaneers actually stopped flying with air-to-air defence missiles and carried bombs instead. They still flew in packages with Tornado bombers and provided Laser guidance, but in addition would bomb opportunity targets afterwards. Such bombing would be done at steep dive angles of up to 40%, which necessitated applying air brakes to prevent the aircraft going supersonic.
One notable successful opportunity target that presented itself was on 21 February at Shayka Mazar when several Russian built Cub transport aircraft were sighted on the aircraft pan. Both Buccaneers dive bombed the aircraft and were delighted to see two of the targets destroyed. The first enemy aircraft received a direct hit but the bombs failed to explode; none the less, the momentum of the bomb did the trick and the aircraft split in two. The second Buccaneer – under the guidance of navigator Flt Lt Carl Wilson – also scored direct hits and TV viewers back in the UK were treated that night to the spectacle of the fully fueled aircraft exploding in a ball of fire.
Operation Granby 1/72nd scale diecast models available at Flying Tigers.
There are a number of aircraft models available to Pre-order at the moment. I have listed them below for you to take a look at. All of these have been heavily pre-ordered and will be available to dispatch in the coming months. Please click on the images / links below to take a closer look.
Offers of the Week
I have added a lot of Witty Wings Props and Jets to the “Offers of the Week” section.
I have shown some of them below to give you an idea of the models added, many of these are old models from years ago but all the models are Brand New and in the original packaging.If you missed these the first time round, now is your chance to get them now … and at very reasonable prices!
Please click on the individual images to go straight to the model of your choice or CLICK HERE to see them all !
Limited stock availability so order early to avoid disappointment. When they are gone their gone !!
New models arrived at Flying Tigers this week.
New Oxford Diecast and Aviation 72 models arrived at Flying Tigers this week. Those of you that have pre-ordered your models will be receiving them soon. Please take a look at those featured below and click on the images or links if you want to take a closer look.
A couple of Pre-order Updates.
I have added the latest images of Century Wings 1/72nd scale CW001618 Grumman F-14A Tomcat USN VF-114 Aardvarks, NH105, USS Kitty Hawk, 1978.
Please click on the links or image here to take a look. This is proving to be a very popular model judging by the Pre-order activity.
I have added the first Air Commander Phantom to the website today. It is available to Pre-order for those (like me) that missed out first time. There are limited supplies. Please order early to avoid disappointment.
Don’t forget Flying Tigers do not require a deposit , nor do we take payment on your credit card before your model is ready to dispatch. If you pay by PayPal the payment will be taken straight away as this is beyond our control.
P.S. The Hobbymaster Jolly Rogers F14-A Tomcat was heavily pre-ordered last week following last week’s Newsletter. Please click on link HERE if you missed it last week. If you want one I wouldn’t hang about. Image below as a reminder.
Century Wings Announcement
Century Wings will be celebrating their 10th Anniversary at the end of the year and have announced that they will be producing a Special Anniversary model .
Details are sketchy at the moment but they have confirmed the following details for the moment…
The model will be a Grumman F-14A VF-84 Jolly Rogers 1978 in 1/72 scale. The model will feature :-
•Magnet attachment gear
•With flap down wing for landing style
•2 Arresting hook parts ( Normal style and Hook Down Style)
•Fully opened jet nozzle
•Special design packaging
I will keep you updated as soon as I know more.Well that’s it for this week. thanks for taking time to read this week’s Newsletter.