RAF Tornado Units of Gulf War 1

...Combat Aircraft 138 from Osprey Publishing

Title: RAF Tornado Units of Gulf War 1
Author: Michael Napier
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-4728-4511-5

Number 138 in the Osprey Combat Aircraft series, taking us back to 1990/91 and the crisis that turned into the 1st Gulf War. A 96-page soft-cover book that is not the development story or complete service history of the Tornado in service, but the specifics and experiences of those who flew it in a very specific time period, in combat.
The book is divided into 4 chapters, with various sub-sections within those. It starts with Preparation for War then moves quickly into the First Day of Conflict, Counter-Air Campaign, and then Medium Level Operations. It details the work of both Tornado variants that flew in the war, with the GR1 attack version and the F3 Air Defence Variant. There are various missions described, and the pattern of these changed to fit the circumstances of the war as it unfolded. We hear from the crews what it was like to fly into what looked like a wall of AA fire at night, and of the techniques of using the JP233 sub-munitions dispenser, of 'lofting' bombs and the use of Pave Spike laser designators (in daylight) and then TIALD, a new device that also operated at night. There were some challenges when technology failed, but it also worked, as the end of the war is described, when crews could safely fly over Iraqi air bases, and see the precise holes in the hardened aircraft shelters where technology so clearly worked. Add the numerous colour archive images and the ever present high quality artwork of colour profiles of many RAF Tornados, along with some of the Nose Art illustrations which might not always be viewed as quite 'PC'.
So much of the post-war history of European armed forces was training for the potential of the Cold War turning into a Hot War, which in the event never happened. World events took them elsewhere, notably the Middle East and the Gulf Wars. This is not just about the aircraft themselves, but very much about the crews who flew them, what missions they flew and how it felt to have to put all that training into practice, at war. How it felt to have to fly missions in daylight and at night, of successes and failures, and then the change back to peacetime procedures as they flew home. A really interesting read.
Thanks to Osprey for our review copy.