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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
My War: The navigator
Flight lieutenant Andy Turk is a navigator on Tornado GR4's with the 617 squadron. He was based at Ali Al Salem base in northern Kuwait and flew bombing missions into Iraq throughout the war.

All our targets are very carefully chosen and I know all the targets I hit were military.

If there were any civilian casualties there, they would have been there for some military reason.

Avoiding civilian casualties is always going to be a big concern but at the end if the day you're a military person and you've just got to get on and do what you're tasked to do.

My pilot and I went on 15 missions altogether and on each we'd take two or three GPS-guided 1,00lb bombs or two Storm Shadow missiles, or maybe just dumb weapons, which are unguided and fall ballistically.

Pre-attack nerves

It may not sound like a lot of weapons, but if you hit something, as opposed to having a close miss, you only need one bomb to do the job.

There's a lot of responsibility that turns into nerves just before an attack.

I can only describe it as like the 'big match temperament'. It's the same kind of fear I imagine you'd get running out onto the pitch before an FA Cup final, making sure that when you kick off you don't fluff the first pass. Once you get into it you're fine. It's just getting your head round that pre-match temperament.

When you've seen the explosion on target, you feel a sense of relief rather than jubilation
Andy Turk
All the training you've done throughout your career, all the planning for a particular sortie effectively all funnels down to a moment when you actually go and drop these bombs on a target.

In those final seconds, when you have positively identified your target, and released the weapon, it's all down to you, there's nothing you can do to bring that bomb back, it's gone.

When you've seen the explosion on target, you feel a sense of relief rather than jubilation.

That's the point at which you think 'Ok, good, that has worked as I intended it to'. It's not a 'Yee ha, I've just broken their stuff or I've just killed a republican guard soldier, or tank crew or whatever, there isn't that, it's more, 'OK, that has gone as I wanted it to'.

Close shave

From our point of view, the war was relatively painless in a lot of respects, in that we were never put in a situation where there were things we couldn't do but were asked to. We had the kit and the expertise to do it.

We were a target though and I often saw missiles flying out into the sky, which came pretty close. One time in particular - we took off to attack a system of deep bunkers and were using the latest long-range storm shadow missiles because they have a unique capability against those kind of targets.

We were airborne at night, on night vision goggles. We could see the land battle going on below us, and there were lots of explosions, artillery fire and tank battles going on but when we looked down one time we saw a big flash on the ground.

Andy Tuk and Noddy Knowles
Andy with his pilot, Squadron Leader Noddy Knowles
We initially thought it was an explosion but then a bright dot came out of that explosion and followed us. As we banked right it corrected right and so on, and we soon realised it was a missile following our manoeuvres.

We dumped our large fuel tanks so we could manoeuvre the aircraft a lot harder and banked hard right and then down and into the cloud. Our wing man saw an explosion a little way away from us.

At the time you're completely focused on the task, but when the adrenalin has stopped pumping, that's when you realise how lucky you were.

There were low points though, the worst being when I was woken up by my pilot to be told we'd lost Kevin Main, a pilot and close friend of mine, in a friendly fire incident. That was a massive low point.

It made us constantly aware of the Patriot missiles that were around us but it also made you worry about how awful it must be if you'd done that to somebody else. What if you were the guy who pulled the trigger, fired the missile, that would be the worst case.

The high points of my war were coming back safely from a successful mission, seeing that the rest of the guys had all got back safely and of course stepping back onto UK soil at the end.



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