UPDATE: Ceasefire in Libya - but RAF Marham jets could still be deployed
15:16 18 March 2011
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Announcement made as Government plans to send in Tornados
The Tornado has been one of the mainstays of the RAF since first entering service in 1980 and the aircraft were used to enforce no-fly zones in Iraq.
It is mainly used as a strike or attack aircraft and could have a key role in taking out Libyan Surface-to-Air Missile systems.
It can carry a wide range of weapons including the Storm Shadow Cruise Missile which can hit targets from a significant distance. Some planes are equipped with the RAPTOR reconnaissance technology. The GR4 can achieve speeds of 1.3 mach and has a ceiling of 50,000 feet.
The plane can be used in all weathers, day and night.
Jets from RAF Marham could still be heading for the Middle East despite a ceasfire announced by the Libyan government.
Prime Minister David Cameron was speaking in the House of Commons today when the news came and he had already said that Tornado and Typhoon aircraft would be on their way to police a no fly zone over the country.
The aircraft are expected to join an international task force in the region and Mr Cameron confirmed that UK planes would also be helping with air-to-air fuelling and surveillance.
The United Nations yesterday backed “all necessary measures”, short of a ground attack, to protect the civilian population.
The Tornado GR4, equipped with precision weapons, is thought to be among the first assets the UK could use to defend a no-fly zone designed to protect the Libyans from action by forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi.
The planes are stationed at both RAF Marham and RAF Lossiemouth, but it is not yet clear which military base they would fly from and options include a base in southern France or from RAF Akrotiri, in Cyprus.
A spokesman for RAF Marham said this afternnon there was no news as yet on the operation,
RAF Marham planes took a leading role in policing the no fly zones imposed over Iraq from the early 1990s to 2003.
The UN resolution imposes a “ban on all flights in Libyan airspace”, with aid flights the only exception. It also calls for an immediate ceasefire, an end to the violence, measures to make it more difficult for foreign mercenaries to get into Libya and a tightening of sanctions.
Loyalist forces were bearing down on Benghazi, home to a million people and had reportedly launched their first air attacks on the town, targeting the airport at Benina.
Col Gaddafi had earlier warned the rebels there that his troops were coming and to expect “no mercy”.
But Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa said today that the ceasefire was intended “to protect civilians”. Airspace over the country was also immediately closed.