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53. RAF Lossiemouth. (NJ 207 694)

RAF Lossiemouth in Moray is home to three bomber squadrons, including the famous 617 "Dambusters" squadron and one training squadron. There are currently 64 Tornado GR4s in Lossiemouth making it the largest Tornado base in the United Kingdom. Lossiemouth is home to 3 operational squadrons of Tornado GR4s, the Tornado GR4 Operational Conversion Unit, a Sea King Search & Rescue Flight, an RAF Regiment Field Squadron and an RAF Regiment Auxiliary Squadron. It has 2,500 military and civilian personnel and in the financial year 2001-2002 it had operating costs of £96.5 million. However, a MoD armed forces review in September 2004 announced that 340 engineering and maintenance posts at the base would be transferred to RAF Marham in Norfolk and that a further 50 civilian posts would be lost in the next four years.

The Tornado GR4 is primarily a strike/attack aircraft and is used for low-level attacks against what the RAF considers "high-value targets." It's main function is ground attack (generally low- to medium-level bombing) using bombs, specifically targeting air defense systems or sometimes other sites such as runways and radar systems.

Squadron 12 during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 flew a number of missions against active Iraqi defences including the first ever non-trial drop of the UK Paveway III laser guided bombs. The current role of 14 Squadron is precision attack using Laser Guided Bombs in conjunction with the Ferranti Thermal Imaging Airborne Laser Designation Pod.

Aircraft from two squadrons based at Lossiemouth, Squadrons 12 and 617, were involved in the Iraq conflict in 2003, contributing a significant proportion of the 30 Tornado warplanes from the UK that took part. The pilots and crew from Lossiemouth were based at Ali Al Salem in northern Kuwait. 617 Squadron flew nearly 100 missions in Iraq between 19th March and 17th April 2003 and was involved in heavy bombing on the first night of the war.

The squadron was also the first to deploy the RAF's new Storm Shadow cruise missile in battle, which can be used to destroy well-defended command and control centres and bridges. These missiles are fully independent after firing and it is believed that they were used to target a number of Saddam Hussein's key compounds in Baghdad. Storm Shadow missiles are stored and maintained at the DSDA facility at Beith[59].

The Tornado GR4s based at Lossiemouth are also equipped with Cluster Bomb Units. In October 2003 Adam Ingram listed the RBL755 cluster bomb manufactured by the UK arms company "Hunting Engineering" (now INSYS - a management buy-out of Hunting Engineering formed in October 2001 jointly funded by the management, Fifth Causeway Development Capital Fund and Lloyds TSB), as amongst the 840 weapons fired by British aircraft on Iraq. Sixty-six RBL755 air-delivered cluster bombs, each containing 147 bomblets, were dropped with an estimated overall failure rate of 6 per cent. RBL755 bomblets are bright orange or yellow, soft-drink-can sized objects and children are particularly drawn to them. The Ministry of Defence said on April 3, 2003, that RAF Harrier jets had dropped RBL755 cluster bombs on unspecified locations in Iraq although BBC footage also showed RAF Tornado's taking part in bombing operations with cluster bombs. All stockpiles of the BL755 and the RBL755 cluster bomb are due to be withdrawn from RAF service before the end of the decade.

 

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