Marham Tornado squadron gets set to disband

A Tornado squadron which has played a leading role in air strikes on Libya will officially cease flying operations next week.

Marham-based XIII Squadron is one of two fast jet squadrons which are being disbanded as part of the defence review.

The other is XIV Squadron, based at RAF Lossiemouth, which is also competing with Marham to form the main home of the RAF's Tornado force.

Next Friday, six aircraft from XIII will fly over two of its former bases - RAF Honington and RAF Wyton. They will then return to Norfolk, thundering across the runways at Marham at exactly 13:13hrs.

Aircaft from XIII and most of the squadron's personnel will be transferred to other squadrons.

Tornados from Marham are currently playing a leading role in Coalition operations in Libya.

The aircraft have been attacking Libyan air defences and flying armed reconnaissance sorties hunting Col Gaddafi's armour.

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Twelve Marham aircraft have been deployed to the Italian air force base Gioia Del Colle.

The RAF's commander of air operations over Libya, Air Vice-Marshal Greg Bagwell, said: 'We are now applying sustained, unrelenting pressure on the Libyan Armed Forces.

'As we continue to enforce the no-fly zone, we are watching over the innocent people of Libya and ensuring that we protect them from attack.'

RAF Marham station commander, Group Capt Pete 'Rocky' Rochelle, said: 'Whilst our main effort remains Operation Herrick, supporting troops on the ground in Afghanistan, our air men and women have time and again demonstrated just how truly agile, adaptable and capable they are, responding to and focusing on the task of Operation Ellamy.

'This once again proves the relevance and broad range of contingent capabilities of the Tornado GR4, having flown missions of historic distance from Norfolk, 3,000 mile round trips.'

Last month Wing Cdr Howie Edwards, commanding officer of XIII Squadron, told how air and ground crews raced against time to prevent a massacre in Libya.

He said there was 'a couple of days mourning' over the news XIII, which was formed in 1915, was going to disband.

But Wing Cdr Edwards, who flew on one of the first raids on Libya, said the operation meant it would be making history in its final weeks.