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Britain's deadly Tornado GR4s join Syria strikes: A factfile on Royal Air Force jets

The Tornados are set to retire in 2019 after four decades of service

Britain's deadly Tornado GR4s join Syria strikes: A factfile on Royal Air Force jets
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LONDON: Britain's Royal Air Force Tornado jet joined the military strikes against Syria on Saturday. Four GR4 jets launched Storm Shadow missiles at a base 15 miles west of Homs, in an effort to cripple Syria's chemical weapons facilities.

Set to retire from service in 2019 after nearly four decades of action, the Tornados have been used to carry out several air strikes in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan as well. With a maximum speed of Mach 1.3, the ground-jets have been described as a long-range deep-strike weapon system by its manufacturer MBDA systems.

The jets weighs 61,600 lbs (27,950 kls) and has a wingspan of 13.91m.

“The aircraft conducts attack missions against planned targets, armed reconnaissance against targets of opportunity and close air support (CAS) for ground forces, typically under the control of a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC),” states the Royal Airforce on its official website.

For attacks against pre-planned targets, the Tornado GR4 usually employs the Storm Shadow cruise missile from considerable stand-off ranges.

An RAF Tornado prepares to take off from Akrotiri in Cyprus (Reuters photo)

“During Operation Ellamy in 2011, Tornados flew from the UK to strike targets in Libya using Storm Shadow missiles, a round trip of more than 3,000nm, accomplished with essential support from Vickers VC10 and Lockheed TriStar tankers. Some missions saw the Tornados launch their missiles and then turn for Gioia de Colle, Italy, where they joined other Tornados, and Typhoons, in a sustained campaign against Libyan government forces,” added the Royal Air Force.

Prime Minister Theresa May is facing massive backlash over the Syrian raids, which were conducted without prior approval from parliament. "This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change," British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement minutes after US President Donald Trump announced the Syria air strikes.

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles overnight in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Syria a week ago, targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities, including a research and development centre in Damascus` Barzeh district and two installations near Homs.

The bombing was the biggest intervention by Western countries against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his superpower ally Russia.

Meanwhile, Russians have been told to be prepared for a Third World War which could be sparked off by the current crisis in Syria, a state-run Russian TV channel has reported.

With agency inputs