One of the world’s largest planes could be spotted in the Norfolk skies this weekend as RAF Marham personnel prepare for training in the Middle East.

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The Tornado GR4 jets of 31 Squadron will soon be leaving for several weeks of intensive training in the United Arab Emirates.

As part of their preparations, a massive Antonov An-124-100 Ruslan landed at the base yesterday and left at 4pm today (Sunday) carrying some of the equipment needed for the exercise.

The four-engined heavy transport aircraft is designed for carrying large and extremely heavy cargo. Its fuselage has a double-deck layout, with the cargo hold below and the cockpit and 88 passenger seats above.

With two loading hatches, the aircraft has been known to carry oversized cargos such as yachts, helicopters, aircraft engines, machinery for the oil industry and satellite equipment.

The base’s Tornado GR4s and personnel have had a busy 12 months of exercises and operations, including flying missions over Libya, and are currently deployed in Afghanistan.

Acting Station Commander, Wing Commander Andy Turk, said: “These operations and exercises underline the need for good training and the Tornado Force is delighted to have been invited by our Arab partners in the Gulf to deploy there on exercise.

“We are very much looking forward to this exercise. We last flew with our Arab partners during the coalition operations over Libya last year.

“This is a good opportunity to renew our professional acquaintance while benefiting from training together in a diverse and challenging environment.”

The squadron will be supported by personnel back at RAF Marham and in the Gulf, including engineers, weapons experts and administrative staff.

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