In 1990, Iraq invaded neighbouring Kuwait. What became known as Operation Desert Storm, to retake the country using an international coalition, commenced in anger on 17th January 1991, twenty five years ago this month.
This 25th anniversary of the allied air response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait offers a highly topical motivation to visit the Yorkshire Air Museum in the coming weeks as we have on display four of the principal aircraft types used by the RAF in “Operation Granby”, with three of these being actual “Desert Storm” veterans. We also have an example of a Russian built SHILKA anti aircraft mobile platform, as used in aerial defence by Iraqi forces.
The allied build up of forces, codenamed “Desert Shield”, had commenced shortly after the invasion of Kuwait between August 1990 and mid-January 1991, with “Desert Storm” commencing on 16th January 1991 – 28th February, with the Royal Air Force operations taking place under the codeword of Operation Granby.
One of the principal aircraft of the campaign was the mighty Panavia Tornado GR1 and GR1A strike aircraft, which was deployed in the vital task of neutralising enemy runways, armed with the highly effective JP233 airfield denial munition. The Museum has the prototype of the Tornado GR1 on display, along with our freshly repainted Tornado GR4 variant, an aircraft that is still on frontline service.
Our illustrious veterans are the Handley Page Victor XL231 “Lusty Lindy”, operated in the Gulf by 55 Squadron which admirably completed all of the 299 taskings allocated to them, along with our BAE Nimrod MR2 XV250, which, flown by No 6 Crew of 206 Squadron, captained by Tom Cross, was in service on the opening night of Operation Granby on 16th/17th January 1991. It was also flown by 201 Squadron Crew 5 captained by Jerry Nash, and had been in the area since the allied build up of forces.
Not least amongst this distinguished company however is the Yorkshire built Blackburn Buccaneer S.2b XX901, which flew 14 operational sorties armed with the Pave Spike Laser Guided Bombs (LGB), carrying out attacks on bridges, hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) and weapon and fuel stores on enemy airbase infrastructure. This aircraft claimed the distinction of destroying an Iraqi transport aircraft on the ground with an LGB. This aircraft had formerly been amongst the only detachment of Buccaneers to the Falklands theatre, so has a highly commendable service record.
As we reflect upon this 25th Anniversary of the first Gulf War, “Desert Storm”, we are proud to display examples of those aircraft and the crews who acquitted themselves so admirably during this conflict. It was a proving ground for the Tornado, in its GR1 and F3 variants; cemented the reputation of the Buccaneer as one of the most stable and effective low level strike aircraft ever built; proved the exceptional capability of the Nimrod MR2 and, even though it was by this time outdated, the Victor was triumphant in completing its taskings, despite being vulnerable to attack. All are outstanding examples of British and allied aircraft technology and the inter force disciplines required of such a multi-national operation.