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RAF Tornado Pilots Abort Targets to Avoid CiviliansTim King Salem-News.com
To kill or not to kill; for once it was not a question.
(SALEM, Ore.) - An article in The Telegraph by Con Coughlin today details the kind of moral military story we don't hear too often in our Wikileaks-based world.
Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado jet fighter/bombers returned to their base after a raid on Libyan military forces loyal to Gaddafi, with their weapons still slung underneath the wings of their airplanes.
The crews chose to drive their weapons back to their base so they could try again another day (or night) without risking collateral damage.
Could it be that western forces have learned something along the way? Everyone should hope so.
A the newspaper article reveals, the trip for these RAF pilots is a long one; 3k miles and that is both an eight hour flight, and an event that requires a number of mid-air refuelings. This they do at 35,000 feet in pitch darkness.
Apparently they were very close to the target when the aviators learned that civilians might be killed or injured if they carried out the attack. The order was given to the pilots to abort the mission and head back home. It was also reported that SAS teams were on the ground helping select targets.
Con Coughlin wrote, "The humanity displayed by the fighter pilots from 9 Squadron was in stark contrast to the brutality regularly meted out by Gaddafi's forces to antigovernment rebels. Human rights groups have received numerous reports of captured rebels being subjected to summary executions and torture."
The article in The Telegraph is clearly written in support of the western airstrikes on Libya, of course we expect nothing else from this right leaning publication. But they are right in this case, for lauding the decision to not risk bombing civilian targets. It would be a great thing for all western air forces to make a habit of.
The RAF Tornado
The Panavia Tornado is an aircraft that was designed and developed jointly by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy.
This twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft is made in three primary versions; the Tornado IDS (Interdictor/Strike) fighter-bomber, the suppression of enemy air defences Tornado ECR (Electronic Combat/ Reconnaissance) and the Tornado ADV (Air Defence Variant) interceptor.
The Rolls Royce powered Tornado first entered service with the RAF in 1979. The models that aborted the attack in Libya, the GR4, first entered service in 1997, and became a front-line plane the following year.
The Tornado GR4 was used extensively during the invasion of Iraq eight years ago. On 23 March 2003, a Tornado GR4 was lost to friendly fire when it was engaged and shot down by a U.S. Patriot missile battery. Both RAF crew members were killed.
The decision to utilize the aircraft in Libya came on 18 March 2011. British Prime Minister David Cameron aid the UK was deploying RAF Tornados and Typhoons to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya.
British Tornados flying the 3000-mile attack missions on Libyan military sites are carrying Storm Shadow missiles. Defence Secretary Liam Fox says these are, "the longest range bombing mission conducted by the RAF since the Falklands conflict".
Again, in a time of great uncertainty, while still directly engaged in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and indirectly supporting Israel's occupational war on Palestine, the coalition of western governments must learn from this event, and continue to lessen tactics that risk the lives of innocent human beings who happen to have the unfortunate reality of living in a war zone.
It is one of the more heroic wartime acts I have ever heard of.
Here is footage of the multi-role RAF Tornado:
Special thanks to Dexter Phoenix who also contributed to this article.
Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer
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