20 Sqn history whilst at Laarbruch

Panavia Tornado GR 1 (30 June 1984 – 31 July 1992 / written by Flt Lt N.J. Roberson)

Groundcrew for No. 20 (Tornado) designate Squadron started arriving at Laarbruch during February 1984, with the first three pilots and navigators arriving during April. Amongst these was Wg Cdr J. B. Hill AFC, who was the OC designate. The aircrew maintained flying currency, operating with No. 16 Squadron until their own aircraft were available. At this time, the Squadron's new hardened site was still under construction. lts aircraft were to be located in the Commands first Mk 3 Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HASs). By May, its first three Tornado GRl s were available for use. The first Squadron aircraft flew on 2 May, and during this month three more crews joined the unit on completion of their course with the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit (TWCU) at Honington. lnitially, the crews carried out theatre familiarisation sorties and then commenced Strike training.

During June the Squadron personnel were able to move into their own sector, where four HASs were available for use. Two more aircraft were received during the month.

On 29 June, the Squadron Standard was handed over by No 20 (Jaguar) Squadron to No 20 (Tornado) Squadron, at a ceremony held at RAF Laarbruch. The Reviewing Officer was the Deputy Commander RAFG. AVM G A White, and a flypast took place with two of the Squadron‘s Jaguars and Tornados. No 20 (Tornado) Squadron officially formed on 30 June, when the Jaguar unit was disbanded. This completed the Strike/Attack wing at Laarbruch where XV and 16 squadrons were also based with Tornados. The remaining squadron at Laarbruch. No II Squadron, was equipped with Jaguar GR 1s in the Attack/Recce role.

During July three more crews and aircraft arrived. This brought the aircraft strength up to eight, two of these being trainers which were fully operational aircraft. On 7 July, one aircraft was taken to the Belgian AFB at Koksijde for static display during its open day.

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales visited the Squadron on 13 July during his visit of the Station, and viewed one of the Squadron's aircraft.

By this time, all of the Squadron's HASs had been completed and were being used by the unit, but the Pilot Briefing Facility (PBF) was not completed for another 26 months, requiring the aircrew to use the 'soft' hangar facilities for planning, briefings and so on.

During this period of work-up, the priority was the Strike role, although Attack training was also carried out. From 17 to 21 September, the Squadron participated in Exercise "Lionheart", and over the period 23 to 25 October, it sent a detachment to Kinloss for Exercise “Priory“. On 31 October, Mr John Stanley MP, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, accompanied by tho C-in-C RAFG, visited the unit during a visit to RAF Laarbruch.

By the end of the first week of November, the Squadron was up to full establishment with personnel and aircraft, oporating 13 Tornados.

On 8 November the Squadron held a reception for the Bürgermeister and his councillors from the local town of Uedem. They had a conducted tour of the Squadron and an aircraft, and met its personnel, with a view to the Squadron being "twinned" with the town, in common with the other squadrons based at Laarbruch who were associated with Goch (II Sqn), Weeze (XV Sqn) and Kevelaer (l6 Sqn). In December Wg Cdr Hill attended the town council meeting in Uedem and it was decided to accept the ‘twinning‘. Afterwards, the Bürgermeister extended a warm welcome to the Squadron and presented a town plate to celebrate the association. The purpose of squadron twinning extends to cover social, cultural, sporting and educational liaison, with the intention of bringing the communities closer together.

Lord Trefgarne, the Under Secretary of State tor the Armed Forces, and VAdm Sir John Woodward. Deputy CDS (Commitments) designate, were hosted by the Squadron on 3 December. In preparation for the Squadron‘s Strike declaration in February 1985, the crews flew the aircraft in a heavyweight fit in January for the first time. The aircraft were fitted with 3 x 330 gallon fuel tanks, a Marconi Sky Shadow ECM jamming pod, and a Philips BOZ-107 Chaff/Flare dispenser, allowing the crews to experience handling the aircraft at high all-up weights.

After being declared to SACEUR in the Strike role in mid-February, the training emphasis was geared towards the Attack role, and some 1 .OOOlb HE(S) bombs were dropped on UK ranges in laydown and loft attacks. Dive retard and simulated BL 755 CBU attacks were also practised.

On 12 and 13 March, the Squadron participated in the French Air Defence Exercise "Datex", the crews flying low-level missions in northern France. During this month, the Squadron sent two Tornados on Rangers tor the first time to the Italian Tornado base at Ghedi in northern Italy.

The Squadron took four aircraft on a squadron exchange with No. 102 Gruppo at the Italian AFB at Rimini, over the period 16 to 25 April. The Italian unit, which operated F-104Ss, took four aircraft to Laarbruch.

May saw the Squadron commence EW and night Automatic Terrain Following (ATF) training. Aircraft staged through bases in the UK and used the EW range at Spadeadam, as well as Wainfleet range for night weaponry.

During the period 10 to 14 June, the Squadron participated in Exercise "Central Enterprise", which enabled the Squadron to practise its Attack procedures against simulated targets in the Central Region. Several sorties were flown, in company with Buccaneers of No. 237 OCU based at Lossiemouth, to practise LGB delivery techniques, with the Buccaneers providing simulated airborne laser designation.

The new C-in-C RAFG. Air Marshal Sir David Parry-Evans KCB CBE, visited theSquadron on 12 June, during a visit to RAF Laarbruch.

The Squadron detached 9 aircraft and 16 crews to Deci on 17 July for their first APC with Tornados. Here the crews practised dive and level retard as well as loft weaponry in the main computed modes of attack, and also reversionary manual attacks. While there, Rangers were flown to Ghedi and the Squadron returned to Laarbruch on 7 August.

On 1 September, the Squadron was fully declared toSACEUR in the dual Strike/Attack roles.

Over the weekend 13 to 15 September, the Squadron celebrated its 70th Anniversary. Many former members attended the guest night, open day and church service, and Air Marshal Sir Victor Groom was the Guest of Honour.

Five aircraft were detached to Lossiemouth over the period 7 to 11 October, to validate Tornado operations delivering Paveway LGBs, on Garvie Island range. Buccaneers from No. 237 OCU provided airborne laser designation and ground laser designation of the target was provided by the Army. During this detachment, the first live LGBs to be dropped by an operational Tornado squadron were successfully released on Garvie Island.

During October Flt Lt T. Brown received the Queen's Commendation from the Station Commander, Gp Capt D. Cousins AFC ADC, awarded for work that he had carried out as a test pilot, on VSTOL techniques and research with night-vision goggles whilst at RAE Bedford, over the period 1980 to 1984.

On 8 December, Wg Cdr Hill was promoted to Group Captain and was appointed to command RAF Laarbruch as from 13 December. Sqn Ldr I. Evans, who was OC A Flight, assumed command of the Squadron from 9 December.

Over the period 27 January to 14 February 1986, the Squadron detached crews to RAF Leuchars for OLF training, using the tactical training areas in Scotland and Northern England and also the EW range at Spadeadam. This was in preparation for the forthcoming Exercise 'Green Flag" at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas in March.

The Squadron had exchanged six of its aircraft with six from No. 27 Squadron based at Marham, for this training, as the "Green Flag" exercise required the crews to evaluate tactics against ground threats using the Radar Warning Receiver (RWR). fitted only in UK based Tornado aircraft.

More LGB trials were carried out over the period 13 to 23 February, when 237 OCU detached two Buccaneers and a Hunter T7 to Laarbruch. The Buccaneers were used to provide simulated airborne laser designation of targets, and the Hunter was used for some dissimilar evasion training.

On 24 February the Squadron started strafe training, firing the twin 27mm Mauser cannons mounted in the underside of the nose of the aircraft, in preparation for the forthcoming summer APC at Deci. During February, the Squadron also carried out some evasion training against Phantoms from Wildenrath, using tactics that the Squadron expected to employ on Exercise "Green Flag".

The Squadron departed for Nellis AFB on 13 March 1986, by VC10, to take part in Exercise "Green Flag".

This exercise required the crews to attack simulated SAM and AAA threats, utilising evasion tactics evolved in the UK and Germany, using the Sky Shadow ECM pods and BOZ Chaff/Rare dispensers. Unfortunately, there was to be no low-level air threat, due to a recent HQ TAC directive because of recent aircraft losses during "Red Flag" exercises.

Two teams of six crews from the Squadron flew daily, as part of packages utilising up to 80 aircraft, involving Ground Attack, 'Wild Weasel" and sophisticated AWACS and ECM. This was a valuable training exercise. Squadron tactics against the ground threats were fully validated and the performance of the Tornados ECM suite was impressive, the only disappointment being the lack of any low-level air threat. The nine UK-based aircraft flown by the crews during this exercise had been drawn from Nos. 9, 27 and 617 squadrons. The aircraft had been flown across the Atlantic by crews from No. 617 Squadron, utilising in-flight refuelling, and were subsequently flown toGoose Bay for OLF training, before being returned to the UK. The Squadron returned to Laarbruch by VC lO on 30 March, staging via Dulles.

On 7 April, Wg Cdr R.D. Elder assumed command of the Squadron, and Sqn Ldr I.Evans reassumed command of A Flight.

During April Air Combat Training (ACT) was begun, to prepare the Squadron to make use of the Air Combat Manoeuvenng Instrumentation (ACMI) during the forthcoming visit to Deci, and strafe training was continued. Over the period 9 to 11 April, Squadron crews participated in Exercise "Mallet Blow", using the Spadeadam and Otterburn tactical bombing ranges. Later in the month they also took part in Exercise "Elder Forest", which required them to attack UK Air Defence installations, including the BAe Bloodhound Mk2 SAM sites.

Around this time, the Squadron started training in which the dropping of the Hunting JP233 runway denial weapon, used in the Counter-Air role, was simulated.

At the beginning of June the Squadron participated In Exercise "Central Enterprise". This was a major NATO exercise and the Squadron used it to validate LGB tactics. On 4 June, the Squadron went to Deci for a three-week APC, where it carried out mainly reversionary weaponry and strafe. During this detachment, some crews made use of the ACMI carrying out ACT. 20 Squadron was the first operational RAF Tornado unit to use this excellent training facility, which records the movements of all aircraft during air combat for debriefing purposes, and is able to validate any claimed 'kills'. Over the weekends, pairs of aircraft were flown on Rangers to Capodichino, Naples.

In July, a pair of aircraft were flown on trials, using Spadeadam EW range to validate tactics using the Sky Shadow jamming pod and BOZ Chaff/Flare dispenser. Over the weekend 11 to 14 July, a pair of Tornados were flown to Akrotiri on a Southern Ranger for the first time, staging via the Italian AFB at Brindisi .

The Squadron commenced an intensive training programme in August, practising flying sections of up to four aircraft to fly in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) and at night. This was in pre-paration for the Squadron's forthcoming detachment to Goose Bay, Labrador, for Exercise "Western Vortex". Also during this month, the Squadron participated in Exercise "Mallet Blow", using Spadeadam EW range and Otterburn tactical bombing range, where some practice weapons were dropped using the Tornados LRMTS, housed in a fairing under the nose.

On 12 September the Squadron departed Laarbruch by VC 10 for its three week Exercise "Western Vortex" at Goose Bay. The Squadron practised IMC ATF and OLF down to 100ft. and dropped practice weapons and 1 .O00lb HE(S) bombs in level and loft attacks on an uninstrumented range. Nine aircraft were used during this exercise, comprising three from each of the Laarbruch squadrons. These had been flown across the Atlantic, using in-flight refuelling, by crews from No. 617 Squadron in August. On 18 September, the AOC No.1 Gp, AVM M.G.Simmons AFC, who was carrying out his annual formal inspection of the RAF Unit, Goose Bay, was flown in the only trainer aircraft amongst the nine aircraft being used for Exercise "Western Vortex", which was a XV Squadron aircraft. This was a pleasant coincidence, since the AOC had formerly been OC No.XV Squadron from 1973 to 1975 when it operated Buccaneers. The Squadron returned from this detachment on 3 October and four days later moved into its hardened PBF, which had been completed during the Squadron's detach-ment to Canada. Over the period 20 to 24 October, the Squadron participated in Exercise "Mallet blow", using Spadeadam and Otterburn ranges.

The Squadron participated in a "Fire Power“ demonstration on 24 November at the Army range at Bergen Hohne, for the Royal College of Defence Studies course visiting the BAOR and RAFG. The course had earlier visited the Squadron to see an operational turn-round, loading an aircraft with JP233.

Buccaneers from No 237 OCU detached to Laarbruch to carry out LGB training with the Squadron during February and March 1987. Over the same period, the Squadron flew some southern Rangers to Akrotiri, staging via the Italian bases at Gioia Del Colle and Sigonella and the German AFB at Bremgarten. In the second week of March, the Squadron participated in the French Air Defence Exercise "Datex", with the aircraft refuelling at the French Air Force Bases at Nancy and Toul.

During these months the Squadron started to prepare for its forthcoming "Western Vortex" exercise by flying sections of aircraft in simulated IMC conditions and at night. The Squadron also flew aircraft in a heavyweight fit with 1.000lb HE(S) bombs being carried, which were dropped in level and dive attacks, and also carried out evasion training with these weapons on board. From 6 to 10 March, the Squadron participated in Exercise "Mallet Blow", using Spadeadam and Otterburn ranges.

From April to October 1987. the runway at Laarbruch was strengthened and resurfaced. During this time, all of the Laarbruch flying units were detached to Wildenrath and Brüggen, with 20 Squadron going to Wildenrath. The aircraft were flown out by 31 March, with Exercise "Bolthole" commencing on 1 April. As part of this deployment Wg Cdr Elder led a diamond nine' flypast of the "Clutch" air-fields and HQ 2ATAF to "show the 20 Squadron flag" on 26 March.

From 14 April to 7 May. the Squadron detached to Goose Bay tor exercise "Western Vortex", where the crews were able to practise flying sections of aircraft in IMC and at night, OLF, and the dropping of practice and 1,000lb HE(S) bombs. The nine RAFG-based aircraft flown by the Squadron had been drawn from Nos XV, 16 and 31 squadrons that had been used earlier in the year by UK and RAFG squadrons for "Green Flag" exercises operating from Nellis AFB, Las Vegas.

20 Squadron were departing for Canadian AFB Goose Bay for Exercise "Western Vortex" from Wildenrath in a VC10. The VC10 was at the hold prior to departing Wildenrath, OC 20 Sqn, Wg Cdr Ron Elder had been invited onto the flight deck, for the departure, by the VC10's captain, and witnessed the accident first hand.

Tornado GR1 trainer, ZD741 "T", had been loaned to 16 Sqn while 20 Sqn were detached to Goose Bay until 7 May. The 16 Sqn crew were coming in to land, when for some reason, this accident occurred with no injury to the two aircrew. As a result of this accident, the departure of the VC10 was delayed for a considerable time, until the runway had been cleared.

On 17 June the Squadron lost its first Tornado, when the lead aircraft of a pair was involved in a mid-air collision, at low-level, with a Jaguar in the Lake District, just south of Keswick. The Tornado crew ejected safely, the pilot receiving only slight burns, but the Jaguar pilot sustained fatal injuries. Pilot: Flt. Lt. N. J.Campion, Navigator: Flt. Lt. J. S. Head

Further LGB training was carried out by the Squadron during the period 22 to 25 June, when pairs of aircraft released inert Paveway LGBs on Garvie Island range, with laser designation of the target being provided by Buccaneers from No 237 OCU. The aircraft staged through Machrihanish.

The C-in-C RAFG, Air Marshal Sir Anthony Skingsley KCB MA, visited the Squadron on 25 June at Wildenrath and flew as the number two in a pair on a training sortie. During this flight, the first by the C-in-C in a RAFG Tornado, he dropped some practice weapons on Nordhorn range. The Air Marshal had formerly commanded RAF Laarbruch from December 1974 to December 1976.

Live firing of AIM-9G Sidewinder air-to-air missiles was carried out by the Squadron during the period 29 June to 1 July, when four crews from the Squadron detached to Valley for a Missile Practice Camp (MPC). 20 Squadron were the first operational RAF Tornado GR1 unit to fire these missiles, on Aberporth range, against flares released from Jindivik pilotless target drones from Llandedr.

On 26 August the Squadron detached to Deci. The period up to 11 September was used for its annual APC, the Squadron then utilised the ACMI until 18 September before returning to Wildenrath.

20 Squadron History from 26 August 1987 until 31 July 1992

Live firing of AIM-9G Sidewinder air-to-air missiles was carried out by the Squadron during the period 29 June to 1 July, when four crews from the Squadron detached to Valley for a Missile Practice Camp (MPC). 20 Squadron were the first operational RAF Tornado GR1 unit to fire these missiles, utilising Aberporth range, against flares released from Jindivik pilotless target drones from Llanbedr. Flying during this month was prioritised for ACT, in preparation for August’s Deci APC.

Over the period 3 to 8 August, the Squadron participated in “Mallet Blow” 87-2, when Otterburn Range was utilised, including the use of LRMTS. Fighters engaged during the exercise included F-4s, F-16s, F-18s and Lightnings. From 10-15 August, six aircraft were detached daily to Waddington, for concentrated EW, Fighter Affiliation, Parallel Track, EW, and Counter Air Tactics against Coningsby based Tornado F3s.

On 26 August the Squadron detached to Deci with ten aircraft. The period up to 7 September was used for its annual APC, and then utilised the ACMI until 17 September before returning to Wildenrath. On 24 September, two aircraft were flown to Gibraltar, to appear in the static display for the Station’s Open Day.

The bolthole detachment to Wildenrath ceased on 1 October, and a diamond nine formation was flown, led by Gp Capt Hill (Laarbruch Stn Commander), flying via Norvenich and the JHQ at Reheidahlen, returning to Laarbruch. On 14 October, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Right Honorable George Younger MP, visited the Squadron, and was flown on a training sortie. Also on this date, the Squadron participated in Salmond Trophy, coming a dissapointing 5th, and during this competition, dropped the new 14kg pratice bombs.

Over the period 26 to 30 October, the priority for Squadron training was EW tactics, in preparation for the forthcoming “Green Flag” exercise next year in March, using Spadeadam Range.

Exercise “Mallet Blow” was commenced on 2 November, planned for five days, but due to the loss of two Harriers during the exercise that day, the exercise was terminated. On 6 November, two aircraft were flown on a Ranger, planned to Ghedi, but due to fog, diverted to Pisa.

Over the period 9 to 11 November, 4-ship EW training took place on Spadeadam Range, staging through Leuchars. During this training, fighter affiliation took place against Lechars based F-4s. The last week of the month, training concentrated on EW training in the UK, staging through Leuchars, including “Lima” training, with the GLO laser designating field targets.

Other Rangers were flown that month. Two aircraft flew to Bodo, Norway, refuelling at Gardermoen outbound, and Bergen on their return. Whilst there, the two crews were invited to visit the Royal Nerwegian Ship Oslo. On 19 November, one crew undertook a Ranger to Akrotiri, routing via Gioia Del Colle.

During the first week of December, the Squadron hosted No.29 (F) Squadron, who brought with them 4 Tornado F3s from Coningsby. A Station Minival took place during the second week of December, preparing the Station for TACEVAL. Routine flying training was carried out by the Squadron for the remainder of the month.

On 1 January 1988, the Squadron Commander was promoted to Group Captain. Over the period 11 to 14 January, the Squadron took part in a Station Minival.

Five aircraft and crews were detached to Kinloss for LGB weaponry on Garvie Island. This detachment enabled the Squadron to develope SOPs for co-ordinated pairs LGB training in IMC and at night. Six direct hits on the target were acheived with 1,000lb LGBs.

The training priority during the month was for TACEVAL and ‘Green Flag’, with briefings from the Electronic Warfare Operational Support Establishment (EWOSE) and the Tornado Operational Evaluation Unit (TOEU) on threat scenarios, and SOPs for operating at Nellis AFB and associated ranges.

On 28 January, one crew flew on a Southern Ranger to Ghedi.

Training during February was geared towards preparations for the forthcoming TACEVAL and exercise ‘Green Flag’. On 1 February, 2 Buccaneers from No.237 OCU took part part in Pave Spike training, consolidating tactics. The Station held a Mineval over the period 8 to 11 February, and from 12 February until the end of the month, the Squadron detached aircraft and crews to Leuchars for OLF training, using Spadeadam Range and ACT against F-4s from 43 and 111 squadrons and Hawks from the Chivenor TWU.

The Squadron spent the first two weeks of March finalising preparations for Exercise ‘Green Flag’, before departing for the exercise on 16 March to Nellis AFB, flying out by VC10, staging via Brize Norton and Gander. At mid-day on 30 March, the last day of the exercise, one of the crews were forced to eject during the post-target egress phase of a mission in Tornado GR1 ZA448 (XV Squadron aircraft). Both crew ejected successfully, although the pilot suffered several injuries. The crew were picked up 5 miles from the crash site by US Army personnel who were driving by at the time. The pilot was then taken by a SAR helicopter to Tonapah airfield for initial medical treatment before being flown to Nellis AFB.

Over the Easter weekend (1 to 4 April), the Squadron recovered to Laarbruch, and on 6 April the Station commenced the first part of TACEVAL.

On 15 April Wg Cdr J.L.Buckler assumed command of the Squadron. The Deputy C-in-C RAFG, AVM R.Honey CBE, visited the Squadron on 18 April, and was flown on two training sorties.

The Squadron participated in Exercise ‘Elder Forrest’ in the UK, refuelling at Leuchars and Waddington over the period 19 to 21 April. Two crews went on an OTF to Akrotiri over the period 21 to 25 April, staging via Brindisi both ways, and on 29 April, and another crew undertook an OTF to Torrejon, Madrid, flying low-level en-route to French AFB Istres-Le Tube, where the aircraft was refuelled.

The Tornado Standardisation Unit (TSU) from the TWCU at Honington, visited Laarbruch to assess the Squadron over the period 3 to 11 of May. On 6 May, the Deputy C-in-C RAFG, AVM Honey, visited Laarbruch to carry out his AFI. Over the period 24 to 27 May, the Station held a Mineval in preparation for the forthcoming part 2 of TACEVAL.

The Squadron sent a detachment to Coningsby over the period 1 to 3 June for 2 v 1 exercises. Exercise ‘Central Enterprise’ over the period 6 to 10 June involved the crews landing away in the UK, and LGB missions with 237 OCU Buccaneers. Two crews flew on an OTF toAkrotiri, staging through Naples, over the period 8 to 13 June.

The Squadron participated in a Forward Air Controller (FAC) exercise for the first time. This was Exercise ‘Cloggy Emotion’, which took place over the period 14 to 16 June, and was conducted in the area of Oldenburg on the North German Plain. It provided a good oportunity for the Squadron crews to become familiar with the R/T procedures and hectic rear-seat cockpit level of activity. The pilots found tasks of locating small, mobile field targets, in one case a single radar, both challenging and enjoyable. For several crews, it was also their first opportunity to work in a communications jamming environment.

TACEVAL part 2, the Battle Phase of the tactical evaluation, took place over the period 4 to 7 July. Squadron training was prioritised over the next two and a half weeks towards the forthcoming Western Vortex OLF training exercise in Canada. Two crews flew on an OTF toAkrotiri, staging through Gioia Del Colle, over the period 14 to 18 July. One of these aircraft went u/s in Akrotiri, and returned via Brindisi. On 21 July, General W.L.Kirk USAF, COMAAFCE visited the Squadron on 15 July, and was flown on a training sortie. The advance party departed for Goose Bay on 26 July, with the main party departing two days later.

Exercise ‘Western Vortex’ commenced on 29 July, and continued until 10 August, with the Squadron returning to Laarbruch on 11 August. On 17 August, the Squadron participated in an exercise on Sennelager Range in conjunction with No.II (AC) Squadron, who were equipped with Jaguar GR1s. This involved flying against tactical targets, with fighter affiliation being flown against CF-18s from Canadian AFB Baden Sollingen.

Over the period 2 to 5 September, two crews undertook an OTF to Gibraltar, staging through the French naval base at Nimes. One aircraft participated in an FAC exercise with the Bundeswehr on 7 September. Three aircraft and four crews detached to the Air Warfare Training Installation (AWTI) at Deci over the period 13 to 23 September, for dissimilar ACT against 56 Squadron F-4s from Wattisham. Two aircraft were flown to Gibraltar on 29 September, staging via Nimes, to appear in the static display for Gibraltar’s Air Day.

The aircraft that had flown to Gibraltar for the station’s Air Day, returned to Laarbruch on 3 October. Over the period 3 to 14 October, the Squadron hosted crews from 237 OCU, who brought with them two Buccaneers and one Hunter T7. They had detached to Laarbruch to operate on NATO exercises. On 6 October, two Squadron aircraft participated on Exercise ‘Elder Joust’, a NATO Air Defence exercise, during which they attacked Leuchars and Spadeadam Range on simulated JP233 missions. Two OTF sorties were flown to Gardermoen over the period 7 to 10 October.

Four aircraft carried out a simulated JP233 attack on Wildenrath during Exercise ‘Gillyflower’ on 10 September, which was observed by the C-in-C RAFG and C-in-C BAOR. Two days later, two aircraft participated in Exercise ‘Common Jelly’, a 2ATAF EW exercise. This was supported by USAFE F-4G Wild Weasels, with E-3A AWACS supporting the EW ground sites. The following day, four aircraft were flown to Cottesmore for a Tornado reunion.

On 19 October, the Squadron departed for Deci, for an APC, which commenced the following day. Air Mshl Sir Anthony Kingsley KCB MA, C-in-C RAFG, visited the Squadron at Deci, and during the visit, flew on a training sortie. Whilst at Deci, two crews flew to Naples over the weekend 21 to 24 October, and the following weekend, two further crews flew to Spanish AFB Valencia.

The APC at Deci continued until 7 November, with the Squadron returning to Laarbruch next day. Over the period 14 to 15 November, the Squadron participated in the Salmond Trophy competition, emerging third. Two crews undertook an OTF to Ghedi over the weekend 25 to 28 November.

December was a very quiet month for the Squadron, with only routine flying training being carried out.

Five aircraft and 11 crews detached to Deci for ACT using the ACMI, returning to Laarbruch on 27 January 1989, after two weeks. Opposition was provided by F-4s, F-15s and F-16s.

On 16 February, 237 OCU Buccaneers from flew into Laarbruch, and flew on LGB exercises via Lossiemouth. The Station held a Mineval over the period 20 to 23 February.

Over the period 6 to 21 March, eight aircraft and ten crews detached to Waddington for OLF training in the UK, in preparation for the forthcoming Maple Flag exercise in Canada, and were supported by F3s from Nos. 5, 11 and 23 squadrons, F4s from No. 111 Squadron and Hawks from No. 151 Squadron.

Two Buccaneers and one Hunter T7 from 237 OCU visited the Squadron on 3 April to participate in Pave Spike training, and some crews from No 16 Squadron also participated. Also on 3 April, the Squadron commenced participation in Exercise ‘Mallet Blow’ over five days.

On 5 April, four aircraft and six crews detached to Portuguese AFB Monte Real for a squadron exchange with No. 304 Squadron, who operated A-7s, returning to Laarbruch on 13 April. From 17 to 20 April, the Station held a Mineval.

On 10 May, the Squadron departed for Canadian AFB Cold Lake, Alberta, for Exercise ‘Maple Flag’. This exercise, which commenced on 15 May, provided crews with the opportunity to fly at operational altitudes over representative terrain whilst evading ground and air threats. The high threat environment also enabled the navigators to improve their ECM suite handling, and at the same time, develop their lookout and formation control. On completion of the exercise, crews flew the aircraft to Goose Bay on 28 May for another Squadron to use on a Western Vortex exercise, the Squadron returning to Laarbruch on 29 May.

The Squadron participated in exercises ‘Central Enterprise’ and ‘Ample Gain’ over the period 3 to 9 June. Strafe training took place at Nordhorn Range on 14 June for two days. The Squadron Commander led a formation of four aircraft for the Queen’s Birthday Flypast over HQ AFCENT on 15 June. On 23 June, two crews undertook an OTF to Portuguese AFB Montijo, staging via FAFB Istres Le Tube.

The advance party for Exercise ‘Western Vortex’ departed for Goose Bay on 27 June, with the main party departing two days later. After two weeks, the Squadron returned to Laarbruch on 15 July. Whilst at Goose Bay, two aircraft were flown to USAFB Hanscom on 30 June, to appear in the bases Air Day Static Display, retuning on 3 July.

On 31 July, the Squadron participated in Exercise ‘Mallet Blow’ in the UK until 4 August, which involved the squadron crews carrying out Fighter Affiliation against F3, F-4s and Hawks.

Six crews were detached to STCAAME at Valley for a MPC, for the firing of live Sidewinder missiles on 1 August for 12 days. On 11 August, two crews undertook an OTF to Gibraltar, routing via FAFB Nimes – Garons, and on 31 August another two crews undertook an OTF to Italian AFB Ghedi.

On 4 September, Sqn Ldr P.K.Batson was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air by the C-in-C RAFG, Air Mshl Sir Roger Palin KCB OBE MA, at Laarbruch, in recognition of his excellent aircraft handling after experiencing double generator failure at night, and landing safely at Wittmundhafen on 8 March.

The Squadron participated in the Salmond Trophy competition during September, coming second, the best result yet by the Squadron, with the Groundcrew coming first in the engineering part of the competition.

On 20 September, the Squadron detached to Deci for an APC. Whilst there, two crews flew to Gibraltar on 22 September for the weekend, and the following weekend a crew took an aircraft to Gibraltar for display in the Station’s Air Day static display on 29 September.

On 2 October, the Deputy C-in-C, AVM P.J.Harding CBE AFC flew out to visit the Squadron at Deci in a Squadron aircraft, and whilst there, flew a weapons sortie on Frasca Range. Over the last weekend of the detachment to Deci, one crew flew to Gioia Del Colle, before the Squadron returned to Laarbruch on 10 October.

The Squadron participated in a Station Maxeval over the period 16 to 19 October, and over the period 31 October to 2 November, the Squadron detached four aircraft to Leuchars for the crews to undertake LGB training at Garvie Island, using Laser target designation (LTD) from ground sources and also Pave Spike designation from 237 OCU Buccaneers.

Two crews undertook an OTF to Ghedi over the weekend 3 to 6 November, and the following weekend, a further two crews went to Akrotiri, staging via Gioia Del Colle. Over the period 6 to 17 November, 237 OCU detached Buccaneers to Laarbruch for Pave Spike training with the Squadron and 16 Squadron. The end of the month saw the Station undertaking the Battle Phase of TACEVAL over the period 27 to 30 November.

December was a very quiet month for the Squadron, with only routine flying training being carried out.

Over the weekend of 12 to 15 January 1990, two crews undertook an OTF to Ghedi. The Squadron carried out an exchange with No 421 Squadron CAF, at CAFB Baden Sollingen, who operated CF-18s. Eight crews and four aircraft went on this detachment over the period 26 January to 2 February, with a number of aircrew being flown in CF-18s.

Four aircraft detached daily, over the period 5 to 16 February, to Machrihanish, for night parallel track in the Hebrides Restricted Area, and at the end of the month, two crews detached to Lossiemouth for LGB training. Strafing at Nordhorn Range was carried out over the period 22 to 27 February.

Two detachments to Lossiemouth, over the periods 6 to 8 March and 13 to 15 March, enabled the Squadron to drop live LGBs on Garvie Island. Another detachment took place over the period 16 to 23 March to Ghedi, to provide chase aircraft in support of a 5ATAF TACEVAL.

Four crews participated in a two day DATEX exercise in France on 13 and 14 March. This involved the crews attacking French airfields and SAM sites and dropping training weapons on Suippes Range, and ACT against French air defence aircraft.

Squadron aircraft participated in exercise ‘Mallet Blow’ in the UK over the period 26 to 30 March, involving evading F3s and F-4s. During the month, two crews undertook an OTF to RDAF Vaerlose.

Apart from routine training, April was a quiet month. The Station held a Minival from 23 to 26 April, and the Squadron participated in exercise Elder Forrest over the period 26 and 27 April. On 27 April, two crews undertook an OTF to RDAF Aalborg on 27 April.

The Squadron detached to Deci on 9 May, for an APC and use of the AWTI. During this detachment, two crews undertook OTFs to Ghedi on 11 May and 25 May, and one crew undertook an OTF to Gibraltar on 18 May.

An OTF was carried out by two crews to Akrotiri over the period 7 to 11 June, routing via Brindisi. Three crews flew to the UK on 12 June, to drop live 1000lb LGBs on Garvie Island, and the Squadron participated in exercise ‘Central Enterprise’ over the period 18 to 22 June, with 237 OCU Buccaneers providing Pave Spike laser designation.

The Squadron departed to Goose Bay on 28 June, for exercise ‘Western Vortex’, where they remained until 14 July. Two aircraft were flown to attend the Ottawa Air Display, to appear in the static display over the period 29 June to 2 July.

Two crews undertook a TF to Gibraltar over the period 27 to 30 July, and the Squadron participated in exercise ‘Mallet Blow’ over two days, commencing 30 July.


Following the invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Iraq on 2 August 1990, 20 Squadron, along with the other UK and RAFG based Tornado GR1 squadrons, were immediately tasked to prepare crews and aircraft for possible deployment to the Middle East, under the codename Operation ‘Granby’. The initial work-up called for Air to Air Refuelling (AAR) and use of the UKLFS. During this period, Sqn Ldr G.Graham died as a result of a mid-air collision on 14 August between the lead aircraft, ZA464 (GM), of a 20 Squadron pair, and a TWCU aircraft (ZA545) from RAF Honington, 10 miles east of Spurn Head on a ‘Granby’ work-up sortie. The pilot was OC 20 Squadron, who sustained major injuries and was hospitalised in Grimsby. The navigator in the TWCU aircraft was a former member of the Squadron.

Aircraft modification programmes were implemented to meet an initial deployment by RAF Bruggen Tornados on 29 August, and the Squadron prepared three aircraft for this task.

On 20 August, Sqn Ldr McAlpine led a formation of nine aircraft as part of the Squadron’s 75th Anniversary celebrations, and on 28 August, the C-in-C RAFG, AM Sir Roger Palin KCB OBE MA, visited the Squadron flew on a training sortie with the Squadron.

The Squadron held celebrations to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Squadron on 1 September, and the Guest of Honour was AM Sir Victor Groom KCVO KBE CB DFC, a former WWI Bristol F.2B Fighter pilot on the Squadron in 1918.

September saw the continuation of the ‘Granby’ work-up extended to all Combat Ready (CR) crews now constituted in 4-ships. All crews continued with AAR and Operational low-flying (OLF) by day and AAR/TF sorties by night with maximum usage of the Spadeadam Electronic Warfare Training Range. The major emphasis of the Squadron efforts for ‘Granby’ remained with major modification programmes being carried out on 8 aircraft designated for deployment on 19 September.

On 20 September, the Deputy C-in-C of the Swiss Air Force visited the Squadron, and flew on a training sortie.

October saw an end to the initial surge of engineering effort and an increased number of aircraft available for the ‘Granby’ work-up. Day and night sorties were flown to the UK by crews in constituted formations. A typical 4-ship formation profile included AAR, 200 feet Automatic Terrain Following (ATF) flight in simulated IMC conditions or at night, OLF, heavy all up weight (AUW) operations, fighter affiliation, EW training and practice weapon delivery techniques including 20° dive bombing. All ‘Granby’ nominated crews participated in realistic Tornado simulator sorties with a Gulf War scenario including AR5 sorties. On 10 October, Sqn Ldrs MacAlpine and Coulls flew direct to Bahrain to deliver a fully modified aircraft, ZA463 (GL), in exchange for a non-modified aircraft. They were the first 20 Squadron crew to visit the theatre of operations.

The Squadron role in Operation ‘Granby’ was formally announced on 2 November, and a change of Commanding Officer from Wg Cdr J L Buckler to Wg Cdr M.C.Heath took place the same day. On 7 November, the Squadron was tasked to introduce Air Launched Anti-Radar Missiles (ALARM) into operational service and deploy with it to the Gulf. The earliest move date was to be 23 November with Tabuk in Saudi Arabia the destination. For this task the Squadron allocated 8 CR crews and 6 aircraft. The remaining 4 CR crews would form an attack package for deployment on 16 December. ALARM training began immediately to make maximum use of the 15 days available for pre deployment training. All aircrew received a comprehensive 2 day groundschool conducted by XV Squadron who had been allocated the role previously. Groundcrews conducted training exercises in loading, downloading and checking of the missiles, making loaded aircraft available for training on 12 November. Crews flew sorties in AR5 to familiarise themselves with the heat stress and fatigue, being escorted by chase aircraft to assist look-out, and most CR crews were able to fly with 2 x JP 233 airfield denial weapons to assess handling, fuel flows and acceleration rates at high AUWs.

On 23 November, 3 aircraft left direct for RSAF Tabuk.

Sqn Ldr R.McAlpine Sqn Ldr R.Pittaway

Sqn Ldr D.Bye Flt Lt M.Wood

Flt Lt A.Ross Fg Off R.Howell

On 24 November, 3 further aircraft deployed to Tabuk via Akrotiri.

Flt Lt T.Roche Flt Lt D.Bellamy

Sqn Ldr M.Williams Flt Lt P.Goddard

Flt Lt M.Preston Fg Off S.Boyd

On 27 November the remaining 2 ALARM crews; Flt Lt N.Wells/Fg Off A.Daws and Flt Lt G.Beresford/Fg Off P.Thorpe, plus 73 groundcrew, left for Tabuk via air transport. The CR crews that remained continued with their training and non-CR crews were allocated to II (AC) Squadron, where the RAFG syllabus for non-CR crews was being implemented.

All crews arriving in Tabuk were given theatre briefs associated with local flying orders, NBC ops and combat survival. Thereafter in-theatre flying began in earnest. The sorties were an extension of the ‘Granby’ work-up, but included 8 x 1000 lb weapon loads. Crews were able to experiment with chaff and flares to simulate defeating enemy missile threats. The final 4-ship crews comprising Sqn Ldr P.Batson/Wg Cdr M.Heath, Flt Lt G.Fagg/Flt Lt C.Lee, Flt Lt D.Sinker/Flt Lt A.Paton and Flt Lt L.Smith/Fg Off M.Coleman, arrived in Tabuk by mid-December and by 23 December, 20 Squadron was declared fully operational. One additional Squadron navigator later arrived at Tabuk, Flt Lt J.Ball, who was crewed up with Flt Lt Fagg. This crew were then teamed up with a 16 Squadron constituted 4-ship formation for the remainder of the detachment.

On 14 December, after it was discovered that Iraq now had up to forty divisions in the Kuwait theatre, General Norman Schwarzkopf, the American Commander-in-Chief and joint commander of the coalition forces, announced that the offensive that was being planned would be called Operation ‘Desert Storm’.

In-theatre forces provided unique training for 20 Squadron – dedicated affiliation training was given by F-15 Eagles on 15 December and F-14 Tomcats at night on 23 December, simulating Fulcrum threats. These sorties enabled the crews to experience the difficulties by day and night of avoiding and defeating agile fighter aircraft with modern lookdown shootdown radars. On 26 December, 20 Squadron flew a simulated attack against the USS John F Kennedy operating in the Red Sea. This exercised the American Task Force defences against low-level air or missile attack.

From 20 December, Tabuk held a QRA force on 2 hour readiness comprising of 2 attack aircraft loaded with 2 x JP 233 and 2 aircraft loaded with ALARM. The importance of QRA was reinforced by air raid warnings which sounded in reaction to Iraqi test launching of missiles.

Despite the obvious tension during the in-theatre familiarisation phase, morale remained high. Tabuk received many visitors including the Honourable Archie Hamilton MP, the Minister for State for the Armed Forces, Lt Gen Sir Peter de la Billiere KCB CBE DSO MC, the Commander British Forces Middle East (CBFME) and CAS, ACM Sir Peter Harding.

December would not have been complete without Christmas festivities and the officers served the airmen lunch before enjoying a Christmas meal in the BAe compound.

Early January 1991was spent with invaluable in-theatre training. Simulated attack packages were flown against Tabuk on 5 January and the USS Saratoga Task Force, operating in the Red Sea, on 11 January.

On 16 January, the detachment commander, Gp Capt R W H Hedges, briefed the 20 Squadron executive officers that the decision had been taken to commence offensive operations against Iraq within 60 hours, following the expiry of the UN resolution calling Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait by 15 January. At that time, all peacetime training ceased and the aircraft were loaded for war. At 2010Z on 16 January, Border Crossing Authority was given.

At midnight Greenwich meantime on 17 January, Allied forces in the Persian Gulf Region began a major offensive against Iraq. The first 20 Squadron crews to cross the Iraqi border were Flt Lt Roche/Flt Lt Bellamy and Sqn Ldr Williams/Flt Lt Goddard, taking off from Tabuk at 0310 Local – each aircraft carrying 3 ALARMs in support of a 16 Squadron attack on Al Asad airfield. The element of surprise was such that the target airfield runway lights were still on.

Considerably more AAA was encountered during the second wave of attacks, but it was assessed as barrage fire without radar guidance. Nevertheless, Sqn Ldr Batson and Wg Cdr Heath led a successful 20 Squadron re-attack on Al Asad and were credited with the kill of an enemy aircraft on the ground from JP 233 sub munitions. The attacks on Al Asad were successful and the airfield was assessed as non-operational.

On 16 January the detachment commander Gp Capt Hedges, briefed the 20 Squadron executive officers that the decision had been taken to commence offensive operations against Iraq within 60 hours following the expiry of the UN resolution calling Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait by 15 January. At that time, all peacetime training ceased, and all the aircraft were loaded for war. At 2010Z on 16 January, Border Crossing Authority was given.

The amount of AAA being experienced during later low-level attacks, forced a change in Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) tactics. It was noted that the rocket flare from the ALARM launch could set off the enemy guns surrounding target airfields. In one case, this had forced the package to abort the attack dropping their weapons on a dump target. On the night of 17 January, four 20 Squadron aircraft led by Sqn Ldr McAlpine and Sqn Ldr Pittaway, attacked the AAA gun emplacements of the airfield with 8 x 1000 lb bombs each. This tactic appeared successful as the following attack package reported a reduction in AAA.

During the early hours of 18 January, Iraq launched seven SCUD surface-to-surface missiles. One was targeted against Dhahran, the other six against Israel, in an attempt to widen the conflict and destroy the coalition of Allied Forces. The attack failed in its aim. Israel subsequently received the American Patriot surface-to-air missile system, which has the capability to destroy SCUDs in flight.

On the evening of 19 January, Flt Lt Roche was tasked to provide support for a RSAF Tornado attack on H2 airfield. A formation led by Sqn Ldr Batson and Wg Cdr Heath was also due to attack the same target, but at an earlier time. In the event, both sorties were cancelled with the RSAF unable to deconflict with Flt Lt Roche, and the Detachment Commander being unhappy with low-level attacks through dense AAA. This followed new intelligence on the target defences, and a third aircraft missing in action from the RAF detachment in Muharraq. His decision was vindicated when the Air Commander at AHQ ordered the cessation of all JP 233 attacks. Tactics changed to delivering 8 x 1000 lb bombs per aircraft, in a loft attack that would expose aircraft to enemy AAA for the minimum time.

On 20 January, Sqn Ldr Batson and Wg Cdr Heath planned to lead a combined ALARM and 1000 lb attack on Al Taqaddum, one of Iraq’s largest military airfields. After take-off, Sqn Ldr Batson found that he could not move the control column to the right. After jettisoning weapons, he made two approaches to Tabuk airfield, but was unable to land. Sqn Ldr Batson and Wg Cdr Heath flew the aircraft, ZD893 (AG), to a safe area and ejected safely. Due to ejection injuries, they were flown back to the UK for treatment.

20 Squadron continued to conduct low-level attack operations against Iraqi airfields, but the tasking gradually changed due to the enemy air force’s reluctance to face American F-14 and F-15 fighters. On 22 January, a combined 20 and 16 squadron attack on the Ar Rutbah Ground Control Intercept facility proved successful with the roof of the bunker breached and the facility evacuated. Unfortunately, a 16 Squadron crew from Tabuk did not return from this last low-level mission flown.

Due to the significant AAA threat, yet low SAM and enemy fighter activity, the decision was made to increase the height of attacks to medium level, typically 20,000 to 25,000 ft, out of range of the majority of Iraqi guns. To decrease the threat from enemy radars, the attacks were packaged with ALARM, American EF-111 or EA-6B electronic jamming aircraft escorted by F-14 and F-15 fighters.

Over the period 23 to 31 January, the Squadron flew nightly medium level raids. Targets included the Rufhah forward SCUD storage facilities, Al Taqaddam airfield and the Al Haglaniyah oil refinery, the fires from the latter attack were observable out to 130 miles. The battle damage results were encouraging although the results of ALARM attacks were difficult to quantify. 112 missiles were fired, 14 suffered technical failure and only two had confirmed kills.

On 29 January, the detachment at Tabuk was visited by AVM W.J.Wratten CBE AFC, Air Commander of the RAF detachment.

Offensive missions continued with 20 Squadron supporting attack missions with ALARM against enemy SAM radars. Although it was difficult to assess the physical damage to radar heads, the level of suppression was impressive, with SAM radars being shut down due to the threat of ALARMs in the air. When used in conjunction with American support aircraft to jam radars and communications, the Iraqi Air Defence systems virtually collapsed with no coordination in defence sectors.

After the change to medium-level bombing, the Squadron attempted to deliver weapons from dive attacks, but this method was not initially successful. During the attack on the Karbala ammunition storage facility, a difficult target due to the spaced bunkered layout, most of the bombs missed beyond the target area. However, a computer ballistic error was identified and amended, and the dive attacks started to become a viable option.

On 7 February, two aircraft arrived at Tabuk with Thermal Imaging and Airborne Laser Designator (TIALD) pods. Crewed by 13 Squadron, these aircraft could designate a point target to be hit by a 1000 lb LGBs carried by Tornado aircraft. Subsequently, additional crews from within the Tabuk detachment, were trained to operate the TIALD, with eventually 10 crews being used. This did not involve 20 Squadron crews, as they were specialised in the delivery of ALARM. This day and night capable system dramatically changed operations, enabling the Squadron to hit and destroy individual HASs, ammunition bunkers and bridges. After a two-day trial, the TIALD aircraft were first used in operations against H3 SW airfield HAS sites on 10 February with encouraging results. A collateral advantage of the pod proved to be the instant battle damage assessment.

The whole Tornado detachment at Tabuk now concentrated on LGB operations with the TIALD crews becoming very adept at designating several targets for closely coordinated attacks. The results were often spectacular, especially against ammunition storage sites. On 19 February, bombs dropped by Sqn Ldr McAlpine and Sqn Ldr Pittaway on a hangar at Al Jarrah airfield, produced a huge instantaneous secondary explosion. Post attack battle damage assessment revealed a large crater and no hangar.

Towards the end of February, a period of bad weather curtailed operations over most of Iraq. Crews were again frustrated by being forced to bring LGBs back from targets such as Shaibah near Basra, a four hour sortie. However, these attacks proved to be a precursor to the Allied ground forces attacking Iraqi forces in Kuwait and Southern Iraq. At 0500Z on 28 February, after 100 hours of ground fighting during which the Allies took 175,000 POWs, and destroyed 85% of Iraqi armour, the cease fire was ordered. Allied offensive military operations ended, and Operation ‘Desert Storm’ was concluded.

The Allies had liberated Kuwait and encircled the remaining enemy formations around Basra. 20 Squadron suspended combat operations and reverted to a QRA posture which remained in force until the Iraqi leadership surrendered.

The suspension of operations continued into early March, which proved a suitable time for a period of rest and recuperation after 45 days of continuous operations and 245 operational sorties. Squadron personnel found time to visit local points of interest and enjoy recreational facilities available.

On 11 March, seven 20 Squadron Tornados, led by Flt Lt Roche and Wg Cdr Heath, left Tabuk for the return to Laarbruch. Air transport completed the move for all remaining detachment personnel.

The return was an unforgettable experience, with flags, bunting and the RAFG band to welcome the Squadron home. The CAS, ACM Sir Peter R.Harding GCB, AM Sir Roger Palin KCB OBE MA, the C-in-C RAFG, and the deputy Commander, AVM Peter J.Harding CB CBE AFC, together with families and friends, greeted the Squadron and joined together in complementing the exemplary fashion of the Squadron’s conduct during Operation ‘Granby'’.


On 15 April, the Squadron re-assembled after well earned rest after Operation ‘Desert Storm’, commencing flying the next day, when low-flying in RAFG was resumed at 1,000ft MSD.

On 10 May, the Squadron was informed that it would be operationally down declared on 1 May 1992, and would be disbanded on 1 September 1992, as part of Government’s defence paper, ‘Options for Change’. The number plate was then to be given to No.233 OCU (Harrier) at RAF Wittering from that date. This would mean that 20 Squadron would be the last RAFG Tornado GR1 unit to disband (16 Squadron disbanded on 11 September 1991 and XV Squadron on 10 December 1991).

The Squadron participated in Exercise ‘Central Enterprsise’ over the period 10 to 14 June, and on 18 June, participated in the Danish Air Defence ‘Blue Moon’, refuelling at Karup.

On 1 July, two crews undertook an OTF to Spanish AFB Moron, and over the period 1 to 5 July, the Squadron participated in the air defence exercise ‘Osex’, operating against F3s, F-4s, F-16s and Hawks. Over the following weekend, two crews undertook an OTF to Gibraltar, and one crew took an aircraft to Belgian AFB Koksijde to appear in the Static Display at the Station’s annual Air Show. Eight aircraft departed Laarbruch on 15 July for an APC at Deci, flying low-level, routing via Istres Le Tube.

The Squadron used the Wiley Syke Air Weapons Range on 14/15 August, and made use of the UK LFS to work up crews low-flying at 250ft.

11 September saw No 16 Squadron disbanded, and 20 Squadron provided a four-ship formation flypast for the occasion. Over the period 9 to 12 September, the Squadron participated in exercise ‘Elder Joust’, a UK Air Defence exercise, with 4-ships being turned around at Newcastle airport. Opposition was provided by F3s, F-4s and Hawks. Over the weekend 13 to 16 September, two crews undertook an OTF to Akrotiri.

OTFs were flown over the weekend 4 to 7 October, with one aircraft flying to Akrotiri, and two aircraft to Madrid. Four aircraft and six crews participated in a Squadron exchange with 21 Wing Spanish Air Force at Moron over the period 17 to 25 October, with the Spanish unit sending 4 F-5s and eight crews to Laarbruch. Composite low-level navigation sorties were flown on both exchange detachments.

During October, six crews were tasked to prepare for Operation ‘Yarra’. This operation was to take place in Iraq, as a result of Saddam Hussein regime refusing to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors, and involved working up for medium-level bombing using new computer software and newly installed GPS navigation equipment.

Two No 617 Squadron crews detached to Laarbruch over the period 11 to 15 November, to work up with the Squadron as target designators to practise TIALD procedures. An OTF to Madrid was flown by two crews during the month.

On 26 November, three aircraft were flown to Valley to participate in a MPC, along with aircraft from XV Squadron. The detachment was completed during December, after five AIM-9G Sidewinder missiles had been successfully fired. By the end of the month, the Squadron had been re-declared to NATO.

Training for Operation ‘Yarra’ was completed during the November, and although the crews were subsequently put on various alert standbys to deploy to the Middle East for this action, the operation was subsequently not executed.

On 3 December, No 2 Squadron permanently moved to Marham, and on 10 December, No 16 Squadron disbanded, leaving 20 Squadron to be the only flying unit remaining at Laarbruch.

No 212 Squadron French Air Force, at Luxeuil equipped with Mirage 2000N, hosted four aircraft and crews from the Squadron over the period 14 to 16 January 1992. During this detachment, the Squadron flew composite missions with the Mirages, using the French low-level system. On 23/24 January, 20 Squadron hosted two F3 crews from 5 Squadron, who were based at Coningsby.

The Squadron detached to Deci on 10 February, taking 10 aircraft to use the ACMI facility there. Over the period 24 February to 20 March, three crews participated in the Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) at the Belgian Air Force Base at Florennes.

March saw the Squadron working up for the forthcoming Exercise ‘Distant Frontier’ in Alaska. This involved AAR and OLF in the UK, utilising the tactical low-level training areas in Northern England and Scotland.

Two crews flew to Ghedi on 3 April, to attend the Tornado reunion weekend festivities.

Training continued throughout April for the ‘Distant Frontier’ detachment, prior to departing for USAF Base Eielson, on 24 April by Tristar, night stopping at Brize Norton. Flying commenced in Alaska on 27 April, with packages including F3s (43 Squadron), F15s and F-16s, with live 1000lb bombs being dropped. This detachment was commanded by Gp Capt Elder, who was the current RAF Cottesmore Station Commander and former OC 20 Squadron (1986/88). On completion of this exercise, the aircraft departed Eielson on 14 May on Exercise ‘Storm Trail’, with an overnight stop at Edmonton International Airport. The crews departed the following day, and rendezvoused with a VC10 Tanker, en-route Goose Bay. All detachment personnel returned to Laarbruch by Tristar on 17 May.

On 1 May, the Squadron was down declared to NATO. On 21 May, one aircraft was flown to Mildenhall, to partake in the Static Display for the Station’s annual Air Show. On 27 May, two aircraft were flown to Canadian AFB Sollingen, for that Station’s closing down weekend.

On 11 June, the Squadron provided a four-ship formation for the Queen’s Birthday Flypast over JHQ Rheindahlen. On 22 June, the Squadron participated in the celebrations to mark the 50th Anniversary of the RAF Regiment, by providing two aircraft to carry out a simulated attack on the airfield, and four aircraft took part in the flypast. Two aircraft were detached to Coningsby over the period 22 to 26 June for fighter affiliation training.

July saw the Squadron preparing for its disbandment, and by 30 July, nine aircraft had been delivered to Marham, and one to Honington. The last flight by the Squadron was on 23 July with a flypast of four aircraft. The participating crews were:

Sqn Ldr P K Batson/Wg Cdr M C Heath (OC 20 Sqn)

Sqn Ldr D M I Bye/Sqn Ldr R A Wilder

Sqn Ldr M H Williams/Flt Lt P J Smith

Gp Capt N A Buckland (Stn Cdr RAF Laarbruch)/Wg Cdr G L Thurston (OC Ops)

The disbanding parade took place on 31 July, reviewed by Air Marshal Sir Andrew Wilson KCB AFC, C-in-C RAF Germany. During the parade, the Squadron Standard was handed over to No 233 (Harrier) OCU, who were to become No 20 (Reserve) Squadron on 1 September. During the ceremony, there was a flypast by a formation of Harrier GR7s.

The parade was also attended by Brigadier General Botho Engelein, Commander 3rd German Air Division, who presented Wg Cdr Heath with a Fahrenband (streamer), on behalf of the German Government. This signified the Good Will and trust of the German people to the RAF in Germany. Amongst the guests were:

AVM M.J.Gibson OBE BSc FRAeS ACGI (former OC 1977/78) Guest of Honour. Air Cdre R.D.Elder CBE (former OC 1986/88) Air Cdre F.W.Mitchell (former OC 1979/84)

Later that evening, a final Squadron Guest Night dining-in-night was held in the Officers’ Mess, when 116 guests attended.

“When 20 Squadron reformed with the Tornado GR1 in June 1984, The Squadron were informed that the roundel had to be on the nose of their Tornados, and the Squadron badge was there put on the side of the engine covers.

Circa 1989, the Squadron were allowed to put the the badge on the side of the nose, between the colour bars, and the roundel repositioned on the side of the engine covers. This was approved by MOD after a request by the Squadron Commander in early 1989. The new markings came into effect in April 1989, and by mid-October that year, half of the Squadron's aircraft had received the new markings. Eventually, all the airframes had the new markings applied. They never returned to the old markings. once they had received the new markings.” N.J. Roberson


British Aerospace/BAE Systems Harrier GR3 & T4/4A

(1 September 1992 – 18 October 1995)

BAE Systems/McDonnell Douglas Harrier GR5/7/9 & T10/12

(1 September 1992 – 31 March 2010)

On 1 September 1992, No 233 (Harrier) OCU at RAF Wittering was redesignated No 20(R) Squadron, remaining under the command of Wg Cdr T.A.Harper, who had previously served on 20 Squadron at Wildenrath in 1975/77 flying the Harrier GR3. The role of the unit was to not only train new pilots to fly the Harrier, but also to train Harrier Qualified Flying Instructors (QFI), Qualified Weapons Instructors (QWI), Electronic Warfare Instructors (EWI), Instrument Rating Examiners (IRE), and short courses for Test Pilots from Boscombe Down, Senior Officer Aquaint Courses, and Refresher Courses for previously qualified Harrier pilots. The unit also provided Harrier Examiners on behalf of the CFS, who conducted the annual evaluation of the front line Harrier squadron pilots. The OCU comprised two Flights, ‘A’ (Advanced) Flight being staffed by QWIs, and ‘B’ (Basic) Flight by QFIs, although some instructors had dual qualifications.

excerpt from "The History of No 20 Squadron" by Flt Lt N.J. Roberson - printed by Palka-Verlag, Weeze, 1987 [Übersetzung folgt]

from Wikipedia: The squadron re-equipped again with twelve Tornado GR1 aircraft at RAF Laarbruch in 1984, while its stock of WE.177 weapons increased to eighteen because of the Tornado's greater capacity. The squadron's war-role and assignment to SACEUR remained unchanged.

In May 1992 the Options for Change defence review called for the disbanding of 20 Squadron as a front line unit, and it disbanded on 31 July 1992. On 1 September 1992 the squadron numberplate was assigned to the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit as No. 20 (Reserve) Squadron.