…... and, quite possibly trigger-happy, self-defence systems. The necessary procedures would inevitably have demanded extensive use of the radio and the Buccaneer crews preferred to stay as silent as possible. CTTO’s recommendation was that the Phantoms should mount Combat Air Patrols (CAP) no closer than 10 miles from the Lebanese coast and even this would have put them sufficiently close to CTF60’s airspace to make co-ordination a constant concern. Since there was very little likelihood of any of the in-country factions being able to mount an airborne defence, however, the escort option was not pursued and the AD commitment was confined to a pair of F-4s on standby to fly CAP sorties near the coast if/as required.

Having sorted out the concept of operations, the comms plan and the targeting, the Buccaneer crews settled down to a standby routine punctuated by practice alerts. The normal state involved two crews at 30 minutes readiness, two more at an hour and the third pair on call but, because Pavespike designation was only possible in daylight, readiness was only maintained between sunrise and sunset. Practice alerts were entitled Exercise KELLY; initiated by BRITFORLEB, they were transmitted to the ASOC at Episkopi thence up to the Air Cdr for Command Post procedures before being relayed to Akrotiri where the crews would hastily plan the specific task before boarding their aircraft and taxiing to the marshalling point. Generally speaking, reaction times were pretty good. In order to rehearse short notice co-ordination with CTF60 we eventually introduced Exercise TEPHRITE. In essence this was a KELLY followed by getting airborne and flying to a point just short of the coast near Beirut but sensitivities were such that we were not authorised to practice TEPHRITE procedures until the later stages of the operation.

Another aspect of our training was, “Know your enemy!” The Intelligence Section provided photographs of individuals from the 20 or so different Arab factions operating in Beirut at that time including the Druze Militia, the Lebanese Army, the Sunni Muslims and the Shi’ite Muslims and so on. There was only one drawback – all the photos were absolutely identical!

In the meantime, and predictably, it had soon become apparent that it was impractical to expect one individual to cope with manning the ASOC and two Operations Officers were flown out from Lossiemouth to join the detachment. One of them was assigned to the Buccaneer Ops desk at Akrotiri while the other went to Episkopi to work shifts in the ASOC with the Flight Commander who had been deployed aboard the Dwight D Eisenhower but who had since returned to Cyprus. This was the final link in the chain and this state of orderly preparedness was maintained for some time while a watchful eye was kept on the visibility and cloud base which were critical to our 11,000 ft concept. By January 1984 seasonal deterioration meant that favourable weather conditions could not be guaranteed and it was increasingly likely that the attack profile would have had to revert to a shallow dive or a lay down delivery from low level, accepting the inevitable degradation in accuracy.


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