617 Squadron, the â€˜Dambustersâ€™, have handed over the mantle of resident Tornado GR4 Detachment at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan to 31 Squadron, the â€˜Goldstarsâ€™, on 15 July 2011.
The seamless transition between RAF Lossiemouth-based 617 Squadron, and 31 Squadron, from RAF Marham, will enable the sustainment of Tornado GR4 operations in Afghanistan, providing Close Air Support and Tactical Reconnaissance for British and Coalition Forces across the country.
Outgoing Tornado Detachment boss, Wing Commander Keith Taylor, Officer Commanding 617 Squadron said, â€œ617 Squadron are proud to have supported Coalition ground forces during our 3 month tour, with the majority of our tasking in support of Task Force Helmand. Task Force Helmand has made huge gains in the security of Helmand Province, which has been justly proven by the lack of bombs, missiles and bullets expended by 617 Squadron in their support.â€
The â€˜Goldstarsâ€™ had previously been 904 Expeditionary Air Wingâ€™s Tornado Detachment in 2009 and return to Kandahar, NATOâ€™s busiest airfield. From their temporary home for the next 3 months, the Tornado crews will undertake a variety of missions ranging from Counter IED reconnaissance, to providing Close Air Support for troops in contact on the ground. 31 Squadronâ€™s engineers and ground crew will continue to provide 24 hour support in the challenging conditions of the Afghan summer.
New Tornado Detachment boss, Wing Commander Jim Mulholland, Officer Commanding 31 Squadron said, â€œ'After an excellent handover from 617 Squadron, 31 Squadron will continue to maintain the highest standards of operational service to the Coalition ground forces serving in Afghanistan.â€
After landing his final sortie at Kandahar Airfield, Wing Commander Taylor stepped out of the Tornado GR4 and officially handed over responsibility to 31 Squadron.
Wing Commander Mulholland added â€œThe handover highlighted how the Tornado GR4 continues to sustain concurrent operations in both HERRICK and ELLAMY, fulfilling a vital role in both Theatres, which is highly valued by our NATO partners.â€
After landing his final operational sortie, Officer Commanding 617 Squadron, Wing Commander Taylor (left), officially hands over the Tornado Detachment responsibility to Officer Commanding 31 Squadron, Wing Commander Jim Mulholland, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
A Tornado GR4 scrambles on a Ground Close Air Support mission from Kandahar Airfield to support Coalition troops in contact on the ground.
Photography:Â RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2011
Source: RAF Website