The UK Royal Air Force has provided a new update on its combat activities in Libya, and announced plans to boost its commitment of fast jets to the NATO campaign to 22 aircraft.

Twelve Panavia Tornado GR4s and six Eurofighter Typhoons are currently supporting operation Unified Protector from Gioia del Colle air base in Italy, with the combination having flown more than 1,100 sorties and almost 2,400h by earlier this month.

Speaking at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in the UK on 15 July, Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell, air officer commanding the service’s 1 Group organisation, detailed the contribution being made by the Tornado and Typhoon fleets during the UK’s operation Ellamy.

 Typhoon - RIATofficial
© RIATofficial
BAE Systems is flying a Typhoon instrumented production aircraft at RIAT

Together they have performed 15% of all air strikes for NATO, but 27% of its more challenging dynamic strikes, he said. The latter refer to emerging targets prosecuted during non pre-planned attacks, such as striking ground-based threats like rocket launchers being used to fire on civilians at the time of their identification.

Bagwell said 90% of the RAF’s strikes to date have been dynamic in nature, and often conducted in urban areas. Its closest coalition partner has recorded a roughly 60% total, while two – Italy and the United Arab Emirates – have made 100% of their strike contributions during so-called deliberate missions against fixed targets.

RAF Tornados have flown more than 3,000h and released more than 300 Raytheon Systems Paveway IV precision-guided bombs and over 120 MBDA dual-mode Brimstone air-to-surface missiles, said Wg Cdr Andy Turk, officer commanding the RAF’s 9 Sqn.

Originally assigned to providing air policing cover, RAF Typhoons have dropped more than 70 Enhanced Paveway II laser-/GPS-guided 226kg (500lb) bombs since also being made available for ground-attack duties. The service continues to operate the type in mixed formation with its Tornados.

With the international community maintaining its pressure on Col Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, the UK Ministry of Defence announced on 15 July that it is to send additional strike aircraft to the Mediterranean region.

“In the coming days the UK will deploy a further four RAF Tornado GR4s to Gioia del Colle, primarily in the reconnaissance role to further support this effort,” it said. The aircraft carries the Goodrich Raptor pod in this role, in addition to air-to-surface weapons. “As a formidable attack aircraft this deployment will also provide a useful secondary increase to NATO’s overall strike capability,” the MoD said.

With the Libya campaign likely to continue for some time, Bagwell said the UK can continue its current contribution, as well as go on operating the Tornado in Afghanistan. “We already have a plan to take us out all through next year,” he said. “It’s sustainable, both for Tornado and Typhoon, and in both theatres.”