Ghost hercs

The reaction that greeted XV211 on it’s return to lyneham on September 11 from Major Servicing was mixed, to say the least. «It’s a Yank Here? • Can’t be, it’s got a probe, • Well it certainly isn’t one of ours!»

Over the next few days rumour control went into overdrive with «Stealth Hercules» variations being the most popular (and printable!). The only Stealth properties of ‘211 were it’s invisibility to identification. The size of its markings and their positions on the rear fuselage, make it difficult to identify except at close quarters.

Painted at Marshalls of Cambridge during it’s routine Major Servicing, XV21 t’s surface was stripped, painted, and finally sprayed Medium Sea Grey in a finish designed to last a full 6 years until its next Major Servicing.

Apart from the obvious uniformity of a one-tone paint finish over the current green/grey scheme, the thinking behind the new colour is primarily ground-defence. A Hercules is most vulnerable when parked on the ground, and this scheme it is hoped will blend in more when parked on concrete.

If rumour control went into overdrive for XV211, then it must have blown a fuse over XV215, the White Hercules!

«The next one’s pink, then blue! No, it’s invisible to infra-red light! Maybe it’s a UN paint scheme for Sarajevo?”

The existence of the White Hercules was for an even simpler reason. During photographic trials in Cyprus, XV215 would be alongside XV211 at all times to provide a «control» for pictures. In everyday terms, the colour of the photographs could be adjusted to ‘215’s pure white paint scheme to give an accurate portrayal of ‘211 ‘s shade of grey.

In comparison to XV21 l’s paint work, the white paint on XV215 posed it’s own problems to even Lyneham’s experienced team of painters. Under the leadership of F/ Sgl Shanks, 20 men and women were split into two teams. Each worked a 12 hour shift over two days. After an extremely thorough wash and degrease by Mr Stan Taylor’s wash team, the aircraft was towed into a heated hangar for its preparation. After being jacked up, one team proceeded with the long but essential task of masking off windows, aerials and other non-painted areas.

Taking a full 12 hours, the night team then continued with spraying the surface with ARTF paint — Alkaline Removoble Temporary Finish. This water-based paint was mixed in the ratio of two parts of base to one part industrial methylated spirits to one part of water. Sprayed to a thickness of 20 to 30 microns, over 100 litres was used to cover the C-130. To prevent excessive wastage, hydraulic non-air spray guns were used. This also cut down on the amount of airborne particles and thereby the considerable fire hazard caused by the methylated spirits. Under the guidance of an experienced Sergeant, each team spent the weekend in non-stop activity with only minor snags being experienced.

One of these was the reluctance of the paint to adhere to the radome of ‘215. This was overcome by liberal hand painting with a brush. The other, more «lateral» problem was how to paint roundels and tail markings in colour — but with only white paint. This was resolved by despatching a painter to the Early Learning Centre in Swindon to buy pots of poster paints powder in red and blue! This was then mixed with ARTF point, and hey presto — washable colours! The paint can last for up to six weeks, but is intended for «one operation use only!». On completion of it’s task, XV2I5 will undergo a normal full aircraft wash. The Aircraft Cleaning Compound is the recommended paint remover for ARTF paint. All the washed off paint is stored in an underground pit, and disposed of in bulk as industrial waste.

With this experience, the Painters estimate it might be possible to paint a Here from start to finish in about 24 hours. It can even be sprayed in a damp environment, such is the versatility of this paint.

The overall finish is striking to say the least, and I am sure many Wiltshire residents have had to look twice into the sky, just in case they thought they’d seen a «ghost»!

Defence Arrangement — the others being Malaysia, Singapore, Austrolia and New Zealand, which in total have contributed about 120 aircraft to the exercise, comprising F-5s, F-l6s, F-l8s, A-4s, P-3s, and E-2s, plus substantial naval assets, which included 12 Royal Navy ships, part of the Orient ’92 Deployment Group, led by the carrier HMS Invincible whose Sea Harriers operated in both defensive and offensive roles.

RAF Tornado F.3s and Harrier GR.7s left on September 14 with two VC 10 tankers, and made overnight stops at RAF Akotiri (Cyprus) and Seeb (Oman) before arriving at Kuantan air base on the Malaysian east coast on September 16, after a final 7M hour leg of the journey.

The RAF contingent, comprising more than 200 air and ground crews, was supported by seven C-130 Hercules and two TriStar transport aircraft, with the latter type and the VC10 tankers based at Kuala Lumpur airport in western Malaysia because runway length and strength at Kuantan was inadequate.

To maximise experience, 12 Tornado crews and 9 Harrier pilots took part in the exercise,

Operate Jill

1FTER SEVERAL delays, Operation Jural finally swung into action early on August 27 when six Tornados flew out to the Gulf to help police the latest air exclusion zone south of the 32nd parallel over Iraq.

With dawn yet to break, the first four aircraft led by their respective commanding officers, W/C Andy Lambert.of 23 Sqn, and W/C Richard Thomas of 3 Sqn.

During the exercise 23 Sqn’s Tornado F.3s were employed in two ways: in a ground alert posture at readiness to be scrambled to intercept in-coming attack aircraft; and to fly CAP missions about 100 miles off the Malaysian east coast near the RN task group, which included the Type 42 destroyer, HMS Newcastle, with which 23 Sqn is affiliated. The destroyer, and her sister ship HMS Edinburgh, also fulfilled the role of radar pickets, thereby extending the range of mainland radars, and being able to control the Tornado interceptions.

The Harrier GR.7s in contrast were the ‘bad guys’, being assigned to Orange forces, tasked with low level strikes against naval and ground targets, including airfields.

W/C Richard Thomas said: «The GR7 operated exceptionally well — we were at full strength during the exercise. The electrics were not affected by the humid conditions and we flew as planned each day.

«IADS gave us the chance to evaluate the aircraft in a new environment to Belize or Europe. In Belize we are accustomed to the dry heat and operating procedures, so having to integrate with different aircraft from several countries in a humid climate was great training for my eight pilots.» commenced their journey from a wind and rainswept flightline at RAF Marham in Norfolk. At precisely 05.00 the three 617 Squodron Tornado GR.l aircraft, together with an air spare, began the 7: hour flight to Dhahran in Saudi Arabia.

Thirty minutes later a further four Tornado

S/L Geoff Cowling of 23 Sqn said: «We flew an average four sorties a day in two shifts. Once airborne we waited on combat air patrol (CAP) at medium level for the raids to come in and local radars directed us towards enemy aircraft. The real test was the command and control — which was complicated due to the many different pieces of kit.»

One RAF piece of kit, thankfully not required, was a modified tree escape system for aircrew ejecting and landing in the jungle. Tested and certified at Farnborough two weeks before departure, the system has a cord which feeds out of two leg pockets to hook around a tree to enable them to descend to the ground and has loops for the feet. GR.1A tactical reconnaissance versions from 2 Sqn deported to the same destination. The six aircraft destined for Gulf duty had all been repainted in the now familiar overall pink scheme more appropriate for desert operations than the dark camouflage normally applied to Tornado. The two cells of Tornados were accompanied to the Middle East by VC10 tankers of 101 Sqn, with an air-to-air refuelling capability remaining at Dhahran to extend the range of the reconnaissance aircraft.

The imposition of the ‘no fly’ zone over the area of Iraq south of the 32nd parallel began at 15.15 local time with US aircraft from Saudi Arabian boses and the aircraft carrier CV-62/USS Independence entering the area to begin patrols. The US operation has been given the name Southern Watch.

The first Tornados landed at Dhahran shortly after the ‘no fly’ deadline began. Two aircraft were refuelled and prepared for duty, and with fresh crews aboard commenced the first surveillance flights over the marshlands to the east of Al Nasariyah where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers come together.

The 2 Sqn GR.1A versions of the Tornado will fly low level sorties using the Vinten Linescan 4000 infra red sensor housed beneath the fuselage for horizon to horizon imagery together with the Vinten sideways looking infra red system. These sensors record their images onto video tape for later analysis.

The three 617 Sqn Tornados will be fitted with TIALD (Thermal Imaging and laser Designation system) which is contained in a pod mounted on one of the centreline hardpoints. Those aircraft fitted with TIALD will operate above 20,000ft to survey activity at Iraqi airfields and troop concentrations. Whereas TIALD was designed to guide precision guided munitions to their target, the thermal imaging capacity has been developed as a surveillance instrument.

The four 617 Sqn GR.Is were ZA458/AJ-A, ZD849/AJ-F, ZA462/AJ-M and ZA393/AJ-T while the 2 Sqn GR.lAs were ZA371/C, ZA395/N, ZA398/S and ZA400/T.

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