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Sunday, 11 June, 2000, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
Harriers return from Sierra Leone
Aircraft on carrier
The Harriers were diverted off a training exercise
Harrier jet pilots have arrived back in the UK after a month-long peace mission in crisis-torn Sierra Leone.

The six Harriers arrived at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland at 1930 GMT on Sunday to be met by families who had expected them back more than four weeks ago.

The pilots from Number 3 (Fighter) Squadron were training in France on 17 May when they were diverted to west Africa to help restore peace.


The British Forces can carry out their task and respond very quickly

Group Captain
David Walker
Station Commander Group Captain David Walker said the mission had been a successful first outing for the newly formed Joint Force Harrier, which involved RAF Harriers working alongside Royal Navy Sea Harriers.

He said the jets had engaged in "presence flying" to show local warring factions the potential strength of military force that could be deployed.

Captain Walker added: "It demonstrates that with all the various talk that there has been about the state of British defence, when it comes down to it the British Forces can carry out their task and respond very quickly.


We didn't know when we were coming back

Wing Commander Ashley Stevenson
"It has shown that they have got good training and equipment, they have the morale and the skill to take part in the operation."

Wing Commander Ashley Stevenson, who commanded the Number 3 squadron, led his Harriers on a flypast over RAF Cottesmore.

He said that "because we didn't know when we were coming back, there were a lot of bets going around about what date it would be".

He was greeted on arrival in the UK by his wife, Charlotte, who is expecting their second child next month, and their son, four-year-old Liam.

Wing Commander Stevenson said: "I'm quite tired but it is absolutely marvellous to be back on terra firma."

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