Page 106 - The Chapka 2016
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   The only one the GLO was allowed to fly
can’t carry this valuable munition. And the one thing that really makes the GR4 deliver are the crew.
The GR4 pilot sits in front and 1.5 metres behind him/her (the RAF have had women over the frontline for years) sits the weap- on systems operator who operates the ‘TARDIS’ (no, it’s not a joke: Tornado Advanced Radar Display Information System). Essentially, the person in the back does the weapons, the per- son in front drives. However, only the person in front can fire the weapons. This has roughly been compared for the army peo- ple among the Squadron (i.e. me) as the commander of an AFV loading and aiming the gun, but the driver having to press the ‘Fire’ button. When briefing on the hazards of the Iraqi airspace, early warnings of ground fire come from ‘screamers in the back’. But most of the hazards come from other aircraft: Iraqi F16s bar- reling through blocks of airspace; US F22 Stealth Raptors lazily floating across canopies; and Russian Tupolevs slicing across coalition air corridors. It is no surprise that the crews often take their own coffee making facilities into the aircraft in the form of compact espresso makers to stay alert at night.
And, as for the glamour of flying jets? That has long worn off for these men and women because, as they pointed out, on an 8 hour mission, dressed in enough clothes to survive weather con- ditions on the ground, and strapped at five points into a bucket seat, how do you go for a pee? The solution: Travel Johns. These amazing devices are bags with a dessicant that will solidfy one’s urine into a gel like substance to prevent ‘splashing’. However, it is inevitable, when dodging other aircraft in the stack one has to dodge and dive a bit and thus when crews are mid-relief, acci- dents can and do happen. Hence, the cockpits reek of ammonia. Hollywood would have us believe that every fastjet mission ends with the crew slow walking down the tarmac, shaking out their hair, helmets under their arms, being cheered by ground staff, hand shaking and back slapping all round; in actual fact most missions conclude with bags of solidified urine being handed out of the cockpit followed by chocolate wrappers and then the humans, filthy with sweat, grit, soot and smelling of pee, stagger down the steps, vigorously rubbing their bodies to bring move- ment back into their blood starved limbs. Who said flying was glamorous?
There are other issues that surround this venerable aircraft; it has been known for the aircon to fail regularly. Not such an is- sue you think, until you realize that the crew are effectively rid- ing a 2000 degrees celsius dual-rocket just below the speed of sound. It gets warm. Very warm. Then the avionics heat up. The next thing that happens is that the computer that puts the aero in ‘aeroplane’ ceases to work and the jet terminates flight and begins to fall. The glide slope on any tornado has been com- pared to the same flight characteristics of a brick thrown from a 3 storey building. When this happens – and it does – the crew have two minutes in which to try recovery before ejection is the only recourse. The only way to recover the situation is to depres-
surize the cockpit to the surrounding 8000 metres. The human body begins to consume itself at 7000m and thus the crew must go to full oxygen. This can then result in Hypoxia, or ‘Oxygen Drunkenness’ – a euphoric state where normal mental function- ing is completely inhibited. This can result in the crew becom- ing completely unresponsive and the jet to continue flying in a straight line until the engines flame out. So it is a delicate bal- ance between the trivial and the serious in a Tornado.
A US Air Force colleague recently mentioned to me how im- pressed he was at the way the UK pilots take-off. Rather than stick the aircraft on it’s backside and head skywards as is the accepted safe method for combat aircraft to become airborne and avoid ground fire, the Tornado crews would hurtle along at about 30 feet above the ground for three kilometres before then rotat- ing skywards; if only he knew this was less for show and more so the aircraft could use the ground effect to keep it airborne whilst allowing the airspeed to build up to allow them to actually fly properly. I did not disabuse his preconceptions.
A Tornado engineer’s t-shirt summed up the Typhoon/Tornado duality for me. On one side it listed all the operations Tornado has been deployed on including; Gulf 1, Gulf 2, Bosnia, Nigeria, Kosovo, Poland, UK, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq and many, many more. On the other it listed the Typhoon deployments; Top Gear, Red-Arrows nursery, Iraq and Air Shows.
The proof is in the photos really. I came across a perfect picture of two 12 Squadron Tornados flying over Iraq in 1998 about to refuel. They are painted green and black, part of its Westphalian disguise. On New Year’s day I took exactly the same photo from the Airtanker over Iraq; two Tornados lining up to refuel, dif- ferent paint but same location, same aeroplane, same ‘mission’ – and in all likelihood, probably one person in that two ship formation was on the same mission 19 years ago.
A mural painted by Da’esh. Translated it literally means ‘We will conquer Rome’

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