RAF soldiers

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado GR4 all-weather attack aircraft have flown their final combat mission in Afghanistan.

During the five-year long mission, fighters from 31 Squadron provided significant support to Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) efforts in the country since taking over from RAF Harriers in June 2009.

In particular, the aircraft provided vital information about enemy activity on the ground, using the Litening III and Raptor reconnaissance pods to spot potential hazards, such as roadside bombs.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "The Tornado remains the fast jet workhorse of the RAF and has performed superbly over many years in Afghanistan, supplying life-saving intelligence and precision weapons in support of our mission there."

Air chief marshal Andrew Pulford said: "The Royal Air Force, and indeed Royal Navy, fast jet contribution to Afghanistan, firstly through the Joint Harrier Force and subsequently the RAF Tornado force, has shown the UK Armed Forces continued ability to provide decisive and potent air power whenever and wherever it is needed.

"The Tornado force contribution to this operation over the last five years has undoubtedly saved lives and should rightly be celebrated.

"Nevertheless, our operational focus and that of the Tornado force must now turn to Iraq where, as in Afghanistan, we will continue to support our allies."

"The Tornado remains the fast jet workhorse of the RAF and has performed superbly over many years in Afghanistan."

Manufactured by Panavia Aircraft, the Tornados also provided close air support. It deterred enemy forces by flying low and fast over their location or striking important targets with precision during their stay in Afghanistan.

The air and ground crew from 31 Squadron are now set to return to RAF Marham in Norfolk, UK, through RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus.

In October, the UK combat troops ended the country’s 13-year military operation in Afghanistan, with handover of Camp Bastion to Afghan Security Forces.

All ISAF forces are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this year.

Image: RAF 31 Squadron personnel take their final walk to Tornado GR4s at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Photo: courtesy of Corporal Andrew Morris RAF, Crown copyright.

Defence Technology