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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Tornados to drop 'concrete bombs'
By Mark Nicholls
With the RAF at the Ali Al Salem airbase in northern Kuwait

Tornado jets are poised to use yet another different weapon in the war against Iraq ... concrete bombs.

The jets, normally based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, have already used high-tech weaponry such as the "bunker busting" cruise missile Storm Shadow, which cost 750,000 apiece and can pierce several feet of concrete.

Tornado GR4
The Tornado has a top speed of 1,452 mph

But now the crews operating over Iraq from the Ali Al Salem airbase in northern Kuwait are about to go to the opposite extreme and use "inert bombs".

These are basically blocks of concrete shaped as bombs and painted blue to identify them as non-explosive if they are discovered still intact after the war.

Great accuracy

But they will be laser-guided 1,000lb blocks of concrete, capable of destroying a tank or artillery piece, but without causing a devastating explosion that would put civilians at risk and shatter surrounding buildings.

Tornado Detachment commander, Group Captain Simon Dobb, said: "We have the option of using these inert bombs.

"They still have the guidance and steering methods of other high explosive weapons but the risk of causing civilian casualties is greatly reduced."

There is the impact, without a massive explosive effect.
Group Captain Simon Dobb
The weapons, dropped from height and with great accuracy, can destroy a tank without affecting surrounding buildings.

The weapon is on standby if Saddam Hussein moves his tanks and artillery pieces further into Baghdad, hiding them in areas of dense population.

It means the Tornados can still destroy them but leave civilian buildings intact and the population unscathed.

He said: "There is the impact, without a massive explosive effect.

"It's all about proportionality."

Coloured blue

The Tornado already has a wide arsenal: from air-to-air Sidewinder missiles; laser- and GPS-guided Paveway bombs; dumb bombs; Storm Shadow and ALARM anti-radiation missiles.

It has dropped controversial cluster bombs during this war, though only on specific targets of troops concentrations and military vehicles.

Tornado

The Tornados have continued to fly missions offering close air support to ground forces as they advance on Baghdad and are now ready to play a role if the war moves into the streets of the Iraqi capital.

Plans are already in hand for post-war Iraq, though the role of the Tornados in that is still undecided.

They may have a presence during the reconstruction of Iraq, maintaining security in Iraqi air space, particularly as humanitarian aid is flown in.

They may maintain a presence in Iraq until the country achieves a stability and has a stable government, and is able to defend its territorial boundaries by itself.

There has been speculation the Tornados may move to bases within Iraq, though that is unlikely at this stage.

But that may change in coming weeks or months.

  • This is pooled copy from Mark Nicholls, of the Eastern Daily Press, with the RAF at the Ali Al Salem airbase in northern Kuwait.




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