The British newspaper The Independent has reported that the Typhoon FGR.4s were scrambled as the two bombers came in to Britain’s area-of-interest over the North Sea. The aircraft had already been tracked by NATO radar stations before that responsibility was handed over to the RAF at around 1000hrs.
The Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-160 “Blackjack” strategic bombers are reported to have flown between the Shetland and Faroe islands before transiting down the west coast of Ireland and over the Bay of Biscay. Continuing south, the responsibility for tracking the two Russian bombers then passed to the French and then the Spanish before they turned north back towards the UK as they headed for home.
An RAF Voyager tanker supported the Typhoons as they tracked the Russian planes. An RAF spokesperson was quoted as saying:
We can confirm that quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby scrambled to monitor two Blackjack bombers while they were in the UK area of interest. At no point did the Russian aircraft enter UK territorial airspace.
The end of the Great War brought little respite to British forces who still had an empire to protect and in May 1919 they became embroiled in a brief but bloody war with the Kingdom of Afghanistan. The fighting resembled more of what the British and Indian Armies were used to before 1914 and the modern technologies that had arisen from the Western Front seemed out of place in the battles against tribesmen and armed militia. Nevertheless towards the end of May a plan was being devised for an air strike on the Royal Palace in Kabul that would hopefully dissuade King Amanullah from further hostilities. The aircraft chosen for the long range mission was Handley Page V/1500 J1936. This aircraft was available because it had just completed a record breaking flight from Britain to India.
The aircraft was armed with four 112lb bombs on bomb racks that had to be sourced from a squadron of B.E.2cs while sixteen 20lb hand thrown bombs were carried in the fuselage to be tossed out over the target. On May 24th 1919 the aircraft took off from Risalpur with Group Captain Robert Halley at the controls and Lt Ted E. Villiers as observer/bombardier. The V/1500 reached Kabul in three hours and made its attack on the Royal Palace, the King’s forces having almost no defence other than to fire their bolt action rifles in to the air at the plane as it circled overhead making attack after attack.
Inside the palace there was chaos despite the fact that Halley and Villiers’ aim was not exactly precise and most of the bombs missed the main building. The horror of being attacked from the sky sent many of those in the palace rushing in to the streets to escape including many of the women of the King’s harem. Even after the attack was over King Amanullah found it difficult to control the situation, the psychological impact on the population being unprecedented and within a few days of the attack he began negotiating peace terms with the British. It was the first time in history that an aircraft had been the decisive factor in ending a conflict.
For more on the incredible Handley Page V/1500 click here.
A collection of pictures of Sopwith F.1 Camel B7270 (G-BFCZ) on display at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey.
All photos were taken on April 5th 2016
Photos: Tony Wilkins
This replica aircraft is representative of Sopwith Camel B7270 of No.209 Squadron, RAF, the machine which Captain Roy Brown flew when he was officially credited with downing Baron Manfred von Richthofen known more famously as the “Red Baron”. These days however it is generally accepted that Richtofen was killed by ground fire. The aircraft was built in 1977 and carried the civil registry G-BFCZ during its flying life. The museum occasionally ground runs the aircraft which is fitted with a Clerget rotary engine.
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The Royal Air Force’s Panavia Tornado GR.1 was one of the most versatile combat aircraft available to the Coalition forces poised to remove Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army from Kuwait. A total force of sixty Tornado GR.1s participated in Operation: Granby, the British contribution to Desert Storm, flying from Tabuk and Dhahran in Saudi Arabia as well as Muharraq in Bahrain. The aircraft were instrumental in helping keep the Iraqi Air Force on the ground and flew most of its missions at very low level under the cover of darkness.
Naturally, with such a dangerous mission there would be casualties and two aircraft were lost on the first night when Iraqi defences were at their heaviest. ZD791/BG flown by Flight Lieutenants Peters and Nichol was shot down attacking Ruma airfield. Both crew were captured. The other aircraft was ZA392/EK flown by Wing Commander Elsdon and Flight Lieutenant Collier. Their aircraft was lost attacking Shaibah air base and both crew were killed.