Air Operations Iraq

Air Operations Iraq

Hardened Air raid Shelter (HAS), Kuwait
US Patriot Battery, Saudi Arabia

Operation JURAL and Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, 1991 - 1998

VSC501, Op Jural, Dharan
Tornado GR1, Operation GRANBY, 1991
Signals compound British Forces HQ, Riyadh, 1996

Following the uprising of the Kurds in Northern Iraq, the Shia Muslim population in Southern Iraq known as ‘Marsh Arabs’ attempted their own rebellion, believing the victorious Coalition Forces would help them. This did not happen, and Saddam Hussein’s forces brutally quelled the uprising, including the use of lethal gas. Thousands fl ed their homes to avoid retribution. To protect them, the UN imposed a no-fly zone in August 1992 below the 33rd parallel of latitude over Southern Iraq. A Coalition Force policed the area as Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. The RAF contribution was named Operation JURAL, with aircraft including 24 Tornados plus supporting personnel, equipment, and aircraft. The Tornados carried out continuous reconnaissance missions over the no-fly zones from 1992 to the fall of Saddam in 2003. These planes were well equipped for this task as they brought both Joint Tactical Information Data System and Towed Radar Decoy into theatre. All of which were support by TCW communications, satellite, data and Navigational systems.

Operation NORTHERN WATCH, 1997 - 2003

VSC 501 Incerlik, Turkey Op Haven 1991
Khobar Towers, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 1996
Al Kharj Commcen
Lightening strike over 29 Squadron F3 Tornadoes, Al Kharj

The US and Combined European Task Force enforced the no-fly zone above the 36th parallel in Iraq, beginning in 1997. The coalition partners – US, Britain, and Turkey – provided 45 aircraft more than 1,400 personnel to support Operation NORTHERN WATCH. The original mandate from the Turkish government was for six months. They subsequently approved extensions but did not wish it to become a permanent mission, although it lasted until the start of Operation TELIC. Tactical Communications Wing teams worked at Dhahran, Riyadh, Bahrain and Incirlik, in Turkey, to support these deployments. The communications requirements increased significantly with the introduction of Joint Tactical Information Data System and the Joint Operations Command System, so Tactical Communications Wing deployed the RAF Transportable Telecommunications System for the first time. This included a Satellite Access Node and Remote Communications Cabins. Following a terrorist attack at the Saudi Arabian Khobar Towers in 1996 that killed 20 and injured almost 400, Tactical Communications Wing detachment moved from Dhahran to Prince Sultans Air Base at Al Kharj – affectionately known as Al’s garage. The facilities were expanded in 1998 when specifically built accommodation replaced the tented area, and Tactical Communications Wing stayed until 2003. Incredibly, the site was built by a company owned by Osama Bin Laden’s father.

Operation BOLTON, 1991 -2003

The Rock, Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait
MOST Satellite Dome & Satellite dish
VSC 501 installation, Op Driver, Riyadh 1995
Satellite Ground Station, Saudi Arabia

In 1991 The UN passed Resolution 687 in an effort to bring peace, security and stability to the region. This resolution required Saddam Hussein to hand over his weapons of mass destruction to be deactivated. A UN Special Commission of weapons inspectors together with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Authority were sent to Iraq to locate these weapons of mass destruction. However, the Iraqis became increasingly obstructive in their dealings with the UN inspectors and in November 1998 ended all cooperation until UN sanctions against Iraq were lifted. Coalition Forces in the Gulf started to build up as the situation deteriorated. Twelve Tornados and over 400 personnel deployed to Kuwait as part of Operation BOLTON. These were supported by VC10 Tankers and Hercules transport aircraft. Eight Harriers were located on HMS INVINCIBLE patrolling the Persian Gulf. Attempts at a peaceful resolution to the situation failed and the Coalition resorted to military force. Tactical Communications Wing deployed into Kuwait with a second RAF Transportable Telecommunications System. This base, Ali Al Salem, was at the forefront of the campaign as it was within 40 miles of the Iraqi border. It was known as ‘The Rock’, well named as it rose above the surrounding desert, with a dun-coloured vista of the distant, arid horizon. Tactical Communications Wing personnel lived and worked from tents and expandable shelters, rotating in and out of theatre during this deployment until the eventual fall of the Iraqi Baath regime.

Operation DESERT FOX, 1998 -1999

VSC501 Op Jural Turkey
Paveway Missile
Op Northern Watch Accommodation Tents

Operation DESERT FOX had two objectives: to reduce Iraq’s ability to manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction and to diminish the military threat posed by Iraq towards its neighbours. From 16 to 19 December 1998, the RAF and USAF attacked almost 2,000 targets in Iraq, mainly around the cities of Baghdad, Tikrit in the north and Basra in the south. Cruise missile attacks and airstrikes were conducted by US Navy carrier-borne aircraft. Tactical Communications Wing provided support throughout the campaign. RAF Tornados operating from Kuwait subsequently attacked military targets near Basra in 250 bombing missions. One of their targets was the hangar at Tallil containing remotely piloted aircraft capable of carrying chemical and biological weapons, the ‘drones of death’. VC 10s flew air-to-air refuelling missions to support US and RAF aircraft, and there was one Nimrod sortie. In response to this pressure, Saddam Hussein allowed the UN inspectors to return.

Operation RESINATE, 1997-2003

RTTS Node
Combined Operations Centre, Al Ude
Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, 2003

Prior to Operation TELIC in 2003, all British Services Gulf operations ran under the title of Operation RESINATE and supported the long-standing commitment by UN Forces to maintain the Iraq no-fly zones, working from Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Although the bulk of the Iraqi Air Force had fled to Iran in 1991, Iraq still possessed capable aircraft and used them to intrude into the no-fly zones, where they were intercepted. RAF and allied aircraft were engaged by Iraqi forces on a regular basis and these hostile actions increased immediately before Operation TELIC. The Coalition responded to the provocation with air attacks, usually on Iraqi communication and air defence sites. By hitting these targets, the Coalition wanted to reduce the threat to its own aircraft. From the end of the First Gulf War in 1991 until after the Second Gulf War in 2003, Tactical Communications Wing deployed personnel and equipment continuously in support of the Coalition Operations. Without these vital communications facilities, manpower and other assets, the RAF would not have been able to carry out its operations and reconnaissance missions so successfully.

Air Operations

Air Operations Documentation and Passes

Deployment Badges and Challenge Coins

RAF Activities and Background