VIDEO UPDATE: In the skies over Libya with Marham Tornados

Marham Tornados own the skies over Libya, after helping to wipe out Col Gaddafi's air force. Today video shot by air crews from the Norfolk base was released, giving a glimpse of their work.

Tornado jets from RAF Marham have helped wipe out Colonel Gaddafi's air force and seize control of the skies over Libya, a senior commander revealed last night.

Now they are policing the skies to protect civilians from what remains of the dictator's forces, as world leaders prepare to meet to discuss the next move.

Video shot by crews shows aircraft taking off from their forward operating base at Gioi del Colle, in southern Italy.

It also shows Tornados re-fuelling in the air - the intricate manoevre which has allowed jets to fly 3,000-mile sorties from Norfolk to attack targets in LIbya.

Major General John Lorimer, the Chief of Defence Staff's strategic communications officer, said four Marham Tornados carried out patrols unopposed yesterday.

'The four RAF GR4 Tornados took off from the base in Gioia del Colle and have been conducting further air reconnaissance missions over Libya as part of Operation Ellamy,' he said. 'They returned to the base without releasing ordnance.'

Most Read

Maj Gen Lorimer said the RAF would now be joining allied forces in enforcing an arms embargo, to prevent further weapons being delivered to Gaddafi's regime.

Speaking earlier today at Gioia del Colle, the Tornados' forward operating base in southern Italy, Air Vice-Marshal Greg Bagwell said Gaddafi's air force had been destroyed.

'We are now applying sustained, unrelenting pressure on the Libyan armed forces,' he said. 'Their air force no longer exists as a fighting force and his integrated air defence system and command and control networks are severely degraded to the point that we can operate with near impunity across Libya.

So far RAF jets, which continue to patrol the no-fly zone over the north African country, have remained unscathed by Col Gaddafi's forces.

'I don't know what he's shooting at but he can't hit us,' said AVM Bagwell, a former Commanding Officer at Marham.

'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.

'We have the Libyan ground forces under constant observation and we attack them whenever they threaten or attack civilians or population centres.' The air marshall hinted that British aircraft could be involved for some time in the UN-backed operation to protect Libyan civilians.

'You'll have to ask Colonel Gaddafi how long he wants to go on for but we're here for the long term.' he added.

AVM Bagwell said Allied operations had achieved in days what would previously have taken months or years, praising the 'Herculean effort' of the RAF men and women taking part.

'Our people in the air and on the ground, deployed and home-based, military or civil service, have been the inspiration and the engine behind this operation,' he said.

'Their ingenuity, hard work, courage and spirit have been ever present.'

Last night a Marham airman who took part in Saturday's 3,000-mile sorties from Norfolk to Libya described the mission.

Wing Commander Andy Turk described setting out on a bright night and taking in the 'spectacular view', as his Tornado flew south of London.

When they neared their targets, the four aircraft in the group aimed their Storm Shadow cruise missiles at Libyan command and control centres, as they took part in the first bombing raid launched from the UK since 1945.

'The weapons are quite heavy,' he said. 'It was dark, we had low cloud cover so we didn't see the weapons go away.

'You do step back and think: 'That's quite interesting to be part of history,' the Tornado navigator and Commanding Officer of Norfolk-based IX(B) Sqn said.

Hinting at the pressure he and his colleagues were under as they set off on their mission, he said the feeling before take-off was 'like on Cup Final day'.

'The mission was very successful. We wanted to punch a hole in the defences and go into the no-fly zone with that,' he said. 'We now have effectively gained air superiority.'

Wing Cmdr Turk, 39, told how he had to take responsibility for everything that happened when he was up in the skies.

'Everything I do, if it's a bullet going half a mile or a missile going tens, hundreds of miles... You're obliged to understand what's going on, you're part of that chain. It's not fire and forget and take no responsibility,' he said.

The following night, Tornados turned away from their bombing run after it emerged civilians were in the target zone.

Today France's foreign minister predicted the military operation may last days or weeks - but not months.

Alain Juppe also said that he hopes the campaign in Libya serves as a warning to autocratic regimes elsewhere, including in Syria and Saudi Arabia.

'I say sometimes that the job of dictator is now a high-risk job,' Juppe said, noting that some autocrats - and now Gaddafi - have been targeted by the International Criminal Court.

'Let's hope that all this will serve as an example,' he said.

Juppe was speaking to reporters in Paris ahead of EU and Nato meetings expected to discuss how to co-ordinate the campaign of air strikes on Libya, which so far have involved primarily US, British and French forces.

But Russia's former ambassador to Libya said Gaddafi could hold off coalition forces for months, and still enjoys broad public support and will not step down.

Vladimir Chamov, who was relieved of his duties last weekend by President Dmitry Medvedev, said on arrival in Moscow that the hostilities could turn Libya into a hotbed of instability resembling Iraq or Somalia.

Confusion over who is in charge of the international operation has contributed to diplomatic tensions.

An international conference is being held in London next week, to take stock of developments in Libya and discuss the command structure for the allied military operations.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the meeting, on Tuesday, would bring together representatives of countries involved in the UN-backed intervention and those situated in the region.

'We will consider the humanitarian needs of the Libyan people and identify ways to support the people of Libya in their aspirations for a better future,' he said.