Buccaneer 1981 - 1984 (4)

The task was for the Lossiemouth Wing to deploy 6 Buccaneers to Akrotiri to provide air support for 102 British officers and men (known as British Forces Lebanon or BritForLeb) in a block of flats in Beirut. BritForLeb were members of a British, American, French and Italian peace keeping force. Unfortunately by September 1983, the peacekeepers were themselves coming under threat. The US ground forces (Marines deployed ashore) had the US Sixth fleet, known by the designation “Carrier Task Force 60” close  

to hand. CTF 60 was equipped with well over 100 fixed wing combat aircraft. Similarly, the French forces ashore had the French Carrier Foch nearby, complete with their Air Wing. BritForLeb in their block of flats had no such air support and their morale was sagging. Accordingly, MOD planned to send attack aircraft to Cyprus to redress the balance. What was needed from the air support was undoubtedly the capability to deliver an extremely accurate attack. Although the Buccaneer had only a crude and basic nav/attack system, it possessed an outstanding Laser Guided Bomb capability both in designation and delivery. Thus, the Tornado and Jaguar  options were discarded and the order came for the Lossiemouth Wing, that meant 12 and 208 Squadrons, to deploy 6 Buccaneers [28]. The Warning Order was issued on 8 Sep 83. All the deploying crews needed Overland Laser Designation experience but such experience with the Laser Designation equipment, known as Pavespike, was in short supply. Although 12 Sqn had some Pavespike experience, it was all in the anti-shipping role. 208 had some overland Pavespike experience but it was at least 2 years old. Nevertheless, the Station Commander, with OC 12 and OC 208, picked six senior crews from across the two squadrons and, as OC 208 Sqn, I was appointed as the non-flying Detachment Commander. The next day, several Hercules arrived at Lossie. They were loaded and quickly departed carrying stores and a contingent of ground crew drawn from across the “Buccaneer Wing.” The Buccaneers also departed on time in 3 pairs and flew an air to air refuelling non-stop sortie to Akrotiri. All aircraft were on the ground within 36 hours of receiving the Warning Order. The Detachment quickly got established [29]. In his briefing to all deployment aircrew at Air Headquarters Episcopi, the Air Cdr Cyprus was very clear. However, who might be shooting at whom, from where, and why, was very confusing for the aircrew. Worse still, details of the air scenario and, in particular, the air threat, were very sparse.


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