“So we went off to do this ‘Show of Force’ around the City. It was a mixed 208 / 12 Squadron detachment.

We put 2 pairs around the City and I was No 2 in the second pair. Bill Graham and Nige Maddox were leading the first pair and we whizzed round the City of Beirut. It was the best two-and-a-half minutes flying of my life! It is the only time that I would ever get the opportunity to fly between buildings in a capital city. I’ve still got the tee-shirt: “Real men fly through Beirut, not over it!”. I did it once, I’d done it twice, maybe three times and then I had to stop because, sooner or later, there would have been something I wouldn’t have seen that I would have hit. But it was absolutely fantastic flying, and there were Ben, and Dutch Holland on the ship, and a lot of people who dug us out of the ‘dwang’ that the Americans seemed to be throwing at us because they did not appreciate that style of flying.”

With all four aircraft safely back at Akrotiri, there followed a lengthy dialogue between CBFC and COMBRITFORLEB but the latter stuck firmly to his view that the Buccaneers should have threatened Soukh Al Garb to show solidarity with the Lebanese Army.

Despite a degree of lack of confidence in the reliability of the radio link between Episkopi and Beirut, it was considered that the situation warranted a repeat performance and another pair flew the same profile on 13 September. Again, all went well – the US Navy was very co-operative and COMBRITFORLEB agreed, albeit reluctantly, not to attempt to retask the Buccaneers. The comms problems had not been solved but had improved somewhat. While these showing-the-flag sorties were being flown, work was progressing on a concept of operations for ROEs 2, 3 and 4. The aircraft fit was relatively straightforward with LGBs, Pavespike pods, ALQ-101 ECM pods and AIM-9 air-to-air missiles under the wings and, to provide a back up option, 4 × 1,000lb retarded bombs in the bomb bay. We were also pressing for as many aircraft as possible to be fitted with ALE-40 chaff/flare dispensers.

The requirement under ROE 2 was to retaliate if the flats came under fire – Cyprus was most likely to learn of this via a call from the FAC on the HF net, or a FLASH signal from COMBRITFORLEB himself, telling the ASOC what had happened, what damage had been sustained and what response was required. The ASOC would relay all of that information to the Buccaneer detachment at Akrotiri while ordering the aircraft to scramble. All that the crews had to do was go and do it. While this sounded fine in theory, there were two significant problems. First, reaction times, which, in reality, were governed by the available secure communications links between Episkopi and Akrotiri. These were appalling, relying upon an intermittent DSSS system or a FLASH signal. What was needed was a dedicated secure voice connection between the Buccaneer Detachment Ops Room and the AHQ. Within a couple of weeks it had been provided and it had been extremely reassuring to observe the RAF’s machinery lumbering into action to sort things out.


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