RAF, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps personnel conducted numerous missions across southern Afghanistan last week, 7 to 13 November 2011. Here follows an operational update.
Air Mobility and Lift
Last week saw the VC10s of 101 Squadron successfully complete all of their planned missions, delivering 115 tonnes of fuel to coalition aircraft including GR4, Rafale, F-18, EA-6B and Mirage 2000.
This was critical to ensuring that coalition airpower delivered armed overwatch, shows of force and close air support to troops on the ground across Afghanistan.
On one mission, as they returned to their air base, the crew of a VC10 performed a critical role in a search and rescue mission being undertaken by a Lynx helicopter in a mountainous area.
The VC10 crew remained on task for an additional 55 minutes; during this time the crew relayed messages from air traffic control which was in mobile phone contact with the casualty. This link provided the direction for the Lynx crew to locate and successfully evacuate the casualty.
Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition & Reconnaissance
Following the week before’s new high of activity, last week’s output was reduced by significant periods of bad weather. There were no kinetic strikes last week; however, Reaper did provide 136 hours of mission-critical full-motion video in direct support of Task Force Helmand and Task Force Leatherneck.
The Sentinel aircraft of 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron, detached as part of 902 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), maintained their operational momentum.
The Sentinel team made full use of Ground Moving Target Indicator radar in support of US Marines from Task Force Leatherneck working alongside Afghan National Security Forces.
The provision of ‘pattern of life’ data is a key element, enabling commanders to develop their understanding of normal activity undertaken by the peaceful majority of the Afghan population.
The capabilities of the Royal Navy Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control (SKASaC) helicopters, operating as part of 903 EAW, continue to be key enablers in allowing ground-based troops to deny the freedom of movement so desired by the insurgents.
The primary operating area has moved back to the western desert areas where a SKASaC helicopter once again played a pivotal role in a successful vehicle interdiction. The driver was detained and the vehicle was found to contain a consignment of heroin with an estimated value of $400,000 US.
31 Squadron’s Tornado GR4s, operating from 904 EAW at Kandahar Airfield, had a busy final week, culminating in the handover to 12 (B) Squadron.
Their first show of force was in support of US ground troops operating in the area north of Kandahar; the following day another show of force south west of Kunar deterred insurgents from launching an anticipated attack.
The next event required the crew to use terrain-following radar to carry out two shows of force west of Kandahar, which were followed later in the day by a further show of presence.
The final shows of force last week were in support of UK troops engaged by insurgents in Helmand. Each of these activities met with the ground commander’s intent by successfully deterring or terminating insurgent activity.
31 Squadron successfully completed a four-month tour of duty, flying over 1,800 hours in support of NATO-led missions.
Wing Commander Jim Mulholland handed over command of the Tornado Detachment to Wing Commander Jim Frampton, Officer Commanding 12 (B) Squadron, on Sunday 13 November 2011.
Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan)
Last week saw the Lynx detachment from 1 Army Air Corps (AAC) hand over to a new detachment from 9 AAC. 9 AAC’s comprehensive pre-deployment training included exercises in California, developing specialised equipment to improve the capability and flexibility of their aircraft.
The operations resulted in the detention of four enemy fighters and included a high-value target and a significant amount of weapons including rocket-propelled grenades and PKMs (machine guns). 1.3 tonnes of explosives were also destroyed.