No 4 (AC) Squadron
Die Einheit verlegte am 27. November 1992 nach Laarbruch. Damit nahm die Squadron nach über 15 Jahren Abschied von Gütersloh, das Ende März 1993 von der Royal Air Force aufgegeben wurde.
Eine Verlegung von vier Harrier GR7 nach Belize erfolgte Anfang September 1993, ab dem selben Monat leistete die Staffel einen weiteren Beitrag zur Operation Warden. Dort rüstete man die Harrier GR7 erstmals mit den alten Recce-Pods des Harrier GR3 aus: Die 4. Sqn. war somit nach vier Jahren Pause wieder in der Aufklärungsrolle unterwegs. Schließlich wurde die Staffelstärke ab 1994 auf 16 Harrier GR7 angehoben, da nun genügend Jets zur Verfügung standen und die zunehmenden Auslandseinsätze dieses erforderlich machten.
Eine weitere Verlegung brachte die 4. Sqn. ab 24. September 1995 nach Gioia del Colle, um bei unter der Operation Grapple über Bosnien Einsätze zu fliegen. Zunächst waren fünf Harrier beteiligt, weitere sieben kamen später hinzu. Im Mai 1995 verlegte die Staffel unter Hill Foil im Rahmen eines MAXEVAL nach Chivenor, um den Einsatz von einer Feld-Einsatzbasis zu üben, denn der ehemalige RAF-Flugplatz war zu dem Zeitpunkt bereits nicht mehr im Betrieb.
Der erste und einzige Harrier T10 lief der 4. Sqn. im Herbst 1995 zu, jetzt konnte das Training auch unabhängig vom Simulator durchgeführt werden. Im Winter 1995/96 kam nach dem Einbau der erforderlichen Ausrüstung und Avionik endlich die Nachtangriffsrolle auf die Staffel zu. Jetzt erst war der GR7 voll einsatzbereit.
Mitte der neunziger Jahre erhielten die Harrier GR7 einen grauen Anstrich, da der alte grüne Anstrich den Erfordernissen in Bezug auf die Tarnung nicht mehr genügte. Im April 1996 verlegte die 4. Sqn. mit zehn Harrier GR7 im Rahmen des Manövers "Purple Star" zur MCAS Cherry Point. Der Abschied von Deutschland kam dann im Jahr 1999. Am 13. April flog die Einheit nach RAF Cottesmore.
Die 4. Sqn. war fast 29 Jahre mit dem Harrier auf deutschem Boden stationiert, davon fast sieben Jahre in Wildenrath, über fünfzehneinhalb in Gütersloh und sechseinhalb Jahre in Laarbruch.
(Auszug aus der Squadron History von M. Herbote)
1992 – No 4 Squadron
Hawker Siddeley Harrier
Für alle Registrationen gilt: Flugzeuge wurden auch häufig zwischen den Squadrons getauscht.
Von daher können Registrationsnummern bei mehreren Staffeln auftauchen.
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact, the Squadron left Gutersloh for Laarbruch in November 1992. Shortly after conducting the only Harrier GR7 detachment to Belize, the Sqn began operating out of Incirlik, Turkey, in support of Operation WARDEN. The Sqn flew armed reconnaissance missions to enforce the No-Fly zone in Northern Iraq. No IV(AC) Squadron therefore were the first RAF squadron to take the Harrier II into operations.
Over nearly 3 years, the commitment was conducted in rotation with the other Harrier Sqns until the Force handed over to Tornado GR1s in January 1995. During that time Sqn Ldr Jim Fernie ejected over Iraq; his experiences are recounted in a later section.
Operation WARDEN – Sqn Ldr Jim Fernie’s ejection
“On 23rd November 1993, 6 aircraft from IV (AC) Squadron launched from their base in Incirlik, Turkey, on a reconnaissance mission tasked over Northern Iraq. The weather for the trip was marginal for medium level operations, with extensive cloud cover between 10,000ft and 25,000ft. During the air-to-air refuelling portion of the trip, Sqn Ldr Fernie’s aircraft suffered an engine surge. As he descended in cloud he made several unsuccessful attempts to relight the engine. With options and height running out, he ejected into the rugged mountainous area north of
Sirsenk, Iraq. Fortunately, despite landing on the side of a mountain, Sqn Ldr Fernie suffered only a twisted knee and was able to quickly take cover behind a large boulder. As Sqn Ldr Fernie attempted to compose himself, he heard a thump behind him. Slowly, he turned around to see a fearsome looking Kurd armed with an AK-47 rifle and wrapped in belts of ammunition. Fearing the worst, Fernie raised his arms in surrender. At this the Kurd advanced swiftly towards him and gave him the biggest and most welcome hug he had ever received. Soon after, the Kurd and his brother (subsequently discovered to be called Abdullah Mohammed and Mohammed Abdullah), helped Fernie aboard an American Special Forces Black Hawk helicopter, which flew him back to
Turkey. The Kurds of Northern Iraq could not have been more friendly or helpful during the subsequent investigations into the accident; even the ejection seat, which had been “borrowed” by a local man to use as a chair, was returned. As a reward the local Kurdish village was presented with a herd of pregnant goats, water damming and purification equipment and the ubiquitous Squadron aircraft print signed by all the IV (AC) Squadron pilots.”
Operation DENY FLIGHT
There was however, no let-up and the Squadron found itself at Gioia del Colle in Southern Italy supporting Operation DENY FLIGHT over the troubled former Yugoslavia. The already unstable situation worsened and on 30th August 1995 NATO airstrikes were authorised following a Serb mortar attack on Sarejevo. In the ensuing two weeks 144 sorties were flown during Operation DELIBERATE FORCE. Forty eight laser guided bombs and 32 freefall bombs were dropped by the Squadron on varying targets including ammunition dumps, communications sites and
radar emplacements. The military action in September 1995 subsequently lead to the Dayton Peace Accord and a resumption by the Squadron to Operation DENY FLIGHT concentrating once again on providing reconnaissance imagery of the former Yugoslavia. An account of Operation DELIBERATE FORCE can be found in a later section.
Operation DELIBERATE FORCE
Although stood down from operations over the former Yugoslavia in the autumn of 1996, the break was not long. In the summer of 1998, IV(AC) Squadron redeployed to Gioia in response to continued Serbian aggression. The commitment continued through Operation DELIBERATE FORGE and ultimately several Squadron members participated in Operation ALLIED FORCE; the air strikes that helped persuade Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his troops from Kosovo. First in and last out of the Balkans, the Squadron brought the Harrier Force out of Gioia del Colle having been stood down from Operation DELIBERATE FORGE in April 2001.
Operation DELIBERATE FORCE
IV (AC) Squadron had the honour of proving the GR7 in combat during Op DELIBERATE FORCE in 1995. Detailed below are two of the many stories that came out of that operation:
“It all happened quite suddenly – we only had a day of warning that the air strikes were to go ahead. We had one Jaguar equipped with a TIALD pod, which had arrived from the UK 29 August. The Boss, Wg Cdr Chris Moran, arrived from Laarbruch with 2 other pilots in 3 jets the morning that the first missions were getting airborne, 30th August 1995. The second Jaguar also arrived that morning. Two attack packages were flown that day – the first 6 ship, led by Sqn Ldr Andy Suddards the Exec, went according to plan, although it was 2 QFIs who had the honour of spiking and dropping the first Laser Guided Bombs (Flt Lts Blake and Linney). On the second package Sqn Ldr Stuart Atha and Major Mike Hile the USMC exchange officer, were tasked as mission commanders of a multi national package. Twenty-four British, French and American aircraft were tasked against targets surrounding Pale, a Bosnian Serb stronghold. When the IV(AC) Sqn aircraft approached Pale the scene was reminiscent of World War 2 footage with most of the storage buildings and factories surrounding the town already ablaze. As Sqn Ldr Atha prepared for his bombing run, his wingman Major Hile called for him to break and drop decoy flares. Looking over his shoulder as he spoke, Atha could see two surface to air missiles arcing towards him. Fortunately the first missile detonated close to the flares, some 2000ft from the aircraft, and the second missile continued to fly straight between the two aircraft. The two shaken pilots then reformed formation and re-attacked the target from a different direction. Although Maj Hile successfully destroyed his target, Sqn Ldr Atha was less fortunate; his bombs stayed on the aircraft due to a wiring problem in the pylon. Two French aircraft were even less fortunate. After attacking their target they were shot down by missiles fired from the same area as those fired against the IV(AC) Sqn aircraft. The two French aircrew survived and were released four months later."
After this incident a friendly rivalry grew between the French and British Sqns. This was best exemplified by the “race” to be the first to destroy an enormous mast north of Tuzla. Both nations had made attempts but had been thwarted by the weather. However on 7th September 1995 the weather was beautiful and it was IV (AC) Squadron’s turn against the mast. To ensure success four aircraft armed with a mixture of slick and laser guided bombs flew on the mission. These aircraft were joined by a fifth Harrier that was re-tasked in the air to join the formation.
“Unfortunately it was rather late in the afternoon and only one pass was allowed against this prestigious target. Therefore all five aircraft dropped their bombs in very quick succession. Unsurprisingly, the mast was successfully downed. As the Squadron aircraft also carried reconnaissance pods, a photograph of the mast lying on the ground was sent to the French detachment. 7th September 1995 will not only be remembered as the day that we got one over the French, but also the first and only day that every combat ready member of IV (AC) Squadron successfully dropped bombs in an operational environment.” Excerpts from: A HISTORY OF IV (Army Co-Operation) Squadron
Commanding officers whilst at RAF Laarbruch
Information by Luca Araniti, Italy