The deployment underlines Marham’s key role as
a powerful front-line RAF station, home to four squadrons of Tornado
GR4s and one of Canberras.
The Tornados can be fitted out for reconnaissance
or for bombing, and the RAF uses them for attack, reconnaissance
and suppression of enemy air defences: a pretty formidable force.
No.II (AC) Squadron of Tornados came to
Marham from Laarbruch in 1991. It was the first in the RAF to operate
at night with infra-red linescan video, which produced valuable
information during the first Gulf War.
Four years ago, the squadron was involved in bombing
air defence sites in Southern Iraq. It was the first time in 54
years that the squadron had dropped bombs in anger.
No IX (B) Squadron arrived in Norfolk in
July 2001, one of the two squadrons which came here after the closure
of RAF Bruggen in Germany. The Tornados are fitted out as bombers,
continuing a tradition which goes right back to 1914.
Among their armaments is the air launched anti-radiation
missile (ALARM), which is used to destroy or suppress the use of
enemy ground-based air defence radar systems.
No XIII Squadron, based at Marham since
1994, came to Norfolk from Honington, which was its base during
the last Gulf War.
This was the squadron which helped to pioneer the
use of a new thermal imaging and laser guided bomb system developed
with GEC Ferranti at that time and it’s been updated since.
The fourth Marham squadron is No 31 and
currently it’s out in the Gulf on the regular patrol of the southern
No 31 is the most recent arrival at Marham. The
Tornados flew in from RAF Bruggen in August 2001, two years after
taking part in NATO operations over the former Yugoslavia.
Again, their role is the suppression of enemy air
But there’s more to RAF Marham than Tornados. It’s
also home to the last remaining Canberra squadron in the Royal Air
They may be old aircraft, entering service in 1958,
but they are valued as a stable platform for photo-reconnaissance
from high altitude.
When the Queen visited RAF Marham (of which she
is Honorary Air Commodore) at the beginning of her Golden Jubilee
year, a Canberra was painted up in its original livery for her to
All these aircraft and crews can only function
if they have good back-up. That’s where other parts of RAF Marham
come into play: engineers, training units,
specialist tactical units and of course, their reserve force: No
They are the people who have normal jobs in the
area, but train and work with the RAF regularly as volunteers.
Sixty-two of the reservists were called up last
week, and if they fly to the Gulf their job will be guarding the
flying squadrons and the airfields.
It’s likely that there will be more deployments
from Marham over the next few weeks as the political manoeuvring
goes on - reinforcing the station’s premier role in the Royal Air
Force in Britain.