Wednesday, June 3, 2009

RAF ends 19-year mission in Iraq - BBC

The Royal Air Force will mark the end of nearly 19 years of operations in Iraq when seven aircraft fly personnel back to the UK.

Their families will be waiting at RAF Marham in Norfolk to welcome them home.

Six Tornado jets and a VC10 transport aircraft will fly personnel from Iraq following the end of combat operations.

The RAF has been operating in and over Iraq since 1990 after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait led to the first Gulf War.

One of the RAF's jobs then was to hunt down and destroy the dictator's notorious Scud missiles.

After the end of the conflict the RAF patrolled the northern and southern no-fly zones.

The RAF played a key role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent six-year British military mission.

Operating from four bases in the Gulf, it has provided support to ground forces and performed an important logistical role.

The RAF said its time in Iraq had helped to stabilise the country. In particular, it said its work to make Basra International Airport "a genuinely international, civilian-run airport" would be "a lasting legacy".

Basra airfield was officially handed over to Iraqi control in January as part of moves to wind down the UK's commitments in the country.

The British military mission in Iraq officially came to a close at the end of April. In May the RAF ensign was lowered at Basra airport.

There will be a fly-past at RAF Marham to mark the return of the last personnel.

The ceremony will also provide an opportunity to remember the 35 personnel who lost their lives during the deployment.

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