Courtney, 43 Squadron, RAF Leuchars. Panavia Tornado F3: Foxhunter, AI24, The Fighting Cocks, Bosnia and Kuwait.
Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.

  Links to chapters:

Tornado F3 video
A short video tribute to the Tornado F3
You should watch this, it's good!

Click here for a pdf version of a short history of 43 Squadron

Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.

The Panavia Tornado F3 - 43 Squadron, RAF Leuchars. AI24 Foxhunter

The Panavia Tornado F3 - 43 Squadron, RAF Leuchars. AI24 Foxhunter

On this page: The Tornado F-3, 229 Tornado F-3 OCU, Scotch Whisky, Kuwait, Op Deny Flight, Medicine.

Tornado F3

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In 1991 Sqn Ldr Paul Courtnage returned to RAF Leuchars. There had been a few changes since I left in 1985 though. Fife and the local area weren't really that different, but the base had been transformed. For a start the airfield-hardening programme had been completed. Critical functions on the base had been housed in concrete buildings, designed to withstand attack using the weapons of the Cold War. Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS) had been completed and the squadrons had moved into them. This of course was very lucky because it happened just in time for the Soviet Union to fall apart and the Cold War to end. The other, big change was that all the F4s had gone and the Tornado F3s (Tornado Air Defence Variant) had arrived.

The Panavia Tornado Air Defence Variant (ADV) was the interceptor version of the very successful Tornado GR1 (later redesignated GR4), already in service with the Royal Air Force. The Tornado ADV was designed to replace the RAF's Lightnings and Phantoms in the Air Defence role. It first flew on 27th October 1979 and entered service in 1984 as the Tornado F2, of which just 18 were built. The ADV Tornado was designed to carry the AI.24 Foxhunter radar in a redesigned nose. The AI24 Foxhunter radar was designed to be capable of detecting medium-sized targets at 100 miles, a seriously ambitious goal. But fundamental design flaws were discovered as it was being introduced to service, which meant that the first aircraft were delivered with concrete ballast in the nose (nicknamed the Blue Circle radar) until they could be fitted with modified, working AI24 radar packs - some 4 years late and 60% over budget.

The AI24 Foxhunter radar was manufactured by GEC-Marconi with major components, including the transmitter, supplied by Ferranti. GEC argued that contractual relationships were partly to blame for the delay in the Foxhunter entering service. The AI24 radar antenna needed to be small to fit into the Tornado F2 fuselage and the physics associated with this were always going to make it something of a compromise. Remember in Chapter 9 we used the Radar Range Equation to explain that the F-15 is big because her designers started by asking what range it should detect targets? This dictated the size of the radar antenna and, thus, the size of the aircraft. Well, the Tornado F3 fuselage was considerably smaller than the F-15's so nowhere near the space for a decent sized radar pack. Perhaps one of the basic problems with the AI24 Foxhunter radar was that it was essentially a digital radar designed before the digital technology it relied upon was mature enough.

That said, once the numerous early design problems were fixed (more accurately a staged improvement programme), the Tornado F2 was redesignated the Tornado F3 and subsequent aircraft were built to this standard, which was pretty good. The first of 152 Tornado F3s was delivered to the RAF in July 1986. At its peak, the F3 was operational in the RAF with 5, 11, 23, 25, 29, 43 and 111 squadrons, 1435 Flight as well as 229 OCU and the Operational Evaluation Unit.

The Tornado F3 fuselage was longer than the IDS version (GR1/4) to allow the carriage of four Skyflash missiles (guided by the AI24 Foxhunter Radar); this also improved high-level, high-speed performance and created space for an additional fuel tank behind the cockpits - 'Tank 0'. The F3 also had only a single, rear-facing, radar homing and warning receiver (RHWR) antenna on the fin, the two forward-facing antennae were mounted on the leading edges of the wing roots. The F3 Tornado had a retractable in-flight refuelling probe on the port side of the forward fuselage and numerous avionics changes from the GR1/4.

Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.
Panavia Tornado F3

PDF on Aim 9 Sidewinder

PDF on Skyflash



PDF on 27mm Mauser

Tornado F3 carrying ALARM
Tornado F3 carrying ALARM
Click either picture for larger image

Tornado F3 with Alarm
Tornado F3 carrying ALARM

The Tornado F3 was heavily criticized for its lack of fighter performance as well as the dreadful teething problems encountered whilst bringing it into service, particularly with the AI24 Foxhunter Radar. While it is true to say that the Tornado F3's performance did not match that of the F-15 or F-16, it must be remembered that the Tornado F3 was designed as a Cold War interceptor, not an air superiority fighter. Its primary purpose was to fly Combat Air Patrols (CAPs) over the North Sea and Northern Atlantic, to have long endurance, to deploy its AI24 Foxhunter radar and to carry sufficient weapons to be able to engage and destroy the long range Soviet bombers that could threaten the UK. Once the Tornado F3's teething problems were sorted, it did all these things well. In fact, as the platform matured, it did all these things very well indeed.

The Tornado F3 was built by the tri-nation consortium, Panavia comprising Germany, United Kingdom and Italy. The United Kingdom purchased the Tornado F3 while Italy leased 24 from the RAF inventory. It was designed with a single integral 27mm Mauser gun (the ground attack version had two) and stations for 4 medium range Skyflash missiles and 4 short range AIM9L Sidewinder infra-red guided air-to-air missiles. The Tornado F3 achieved initial operational capability in 1986. The later addition of JTIDS (Joint Tactical Information Distribution System) Link 16 (datalink) and the weapons system upgrade to allow the F3 to carry and fire ASRAAM and AMRAAM missiles, under the Tornado F3 Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP), made this an awesome platform in its later life.

The Tornado F3 Capability Sustainment Programme was announced on 5th March 1996 and included upgrades to the AI24 Foxhunter radar to improve multi-target engagement, improved cockpit displays, a new main computer processor and a new weapons management computer. The Tornado F3 CSP was also a good opportunity to rectify the mess that had been created by applying earlier modifications and upgrades only to certain aircraft and creating "fleets within fleets". The MOD had been unwilling to fund the upgrades across the fleet and this had reached the ridiculous stage were almost no two aircraft were the same.

During the Tornado F3 upgrade programme the AI24 Foxhunter radar caused significant problems when efforts were made to integrate AIM-120 AMRAAM with the aircraft as a replacement for Skyflash. The radar had to be considerably modified to interface properly with the missile. Again, to cut costs the MOD decided that the Tornado F3 would not exploit the full capabilities of AMRAAM. The Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM ("Slammer") uses mid-course updates after launch to refresh target information prior to the missile's own active seeker taking over. CSP would not permit the AI24 Foxhunter radar to provide this capability. Despite becoming operational before 2003, the Tornado F3 force deployed on operations in Iraq with the Skyflash, not AMRAAM, leading to suggestions that the decision not to fully integrate the missile made it no more effective than the original missile. The MoD then decided that the Tornado F3 force would receive a further upgrade to allow mid-course guidance.

Shortly before the 2003 Gulf War, a number of Tornado F3s were modified to operate in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) role, allowing the carriage of two ALARM missiles in place of the Skyflash or AMRAAM missiles (see the two enlargable pictures on the left). The excellent accuracy of the Tornado F3's RHWR was exploited to give it the ability to locate enemy radar sites. As it happens, the modified aircraft were not deployed during the conflict.

The Tornado F3's wings are variable geometry and can be swept from 25° (fully forward) to 67° (fully swept) to offer good low-speed handling and smooth, low-drag performance at high speed or at low level in turbulence. The Tornado F3 is fitted with Turbo-Union RB199 Mk104 engines with thrust reverse, giving it impressive stopping performance. I don't recall ever flying anything as quiet (inside the cockpit), fast or comfortable at low level. The Tornado F3's data is listed at the end of this chapter.

Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.
Tornado F3 landing - thrust reverse deployed, leading and trailing edge flaps and lift dump extended (just ahead of trailing edge flaps).
Click the image for a tail-view of the Tornado F3's nozzles and thrust reverse mechanism.

Tornado F3 AI24 Radar Display Tornado F3 AI25 Radar Display

All I would say is this: many people are very happy to express their views about the Tornado F3, but you should listen carefully to those that operated it to great effect in the UK, Iraq, Bosnia, The Falkland Islands, on exercise in the USA and Canada and numerous other places. It is true that the MOD took a number of short-sighted decisions throughout the F3's development and later life, but you should not make the mistake of jumping on the bandwagon of careless, uninformed criticism. The Tornado F3 had a difficult childhood, but a truly excellent adult life and was very successful operational career. I for one would go and fly it on operations again any day. Jumping ahead a bit, the last Tornado F3 was retired from RAF service on 22nd March 2011.

Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.
Tornado F3 showing the AI24 Foxhunter Radar.


Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia. RB199 - Tornado F3 Engine
Turbo-Union RB199 Mk104,
the Tornado F3 engine.


As with the rest of the Tornado F3 story, nothing seemed to run smoothly. Here's another sorry tale from the F3's life. Every aircraft has a given fatigue life; the more it is flown, the more it carries and the harder it is manoeuvred, the quicker its fatigue life is used up. The F3 airframes were found to be using fatigue life more quickly than expected and, so, a modification programme was devised to extend the life of the aircraft. This was known as the 25 FI Programme and was a good plan. The first aircraft were modified by a British Aerospace Contractor's Working Party. However, in 1992 the MoD decided to try to save money by contracting the remainder of the work to a company called Airwork Services Limited (owned now by Vosper Thornycroft). Presumably, they were the lowest bidder for the contract. I believe that Airwork were not given all the engineering information that they needed to do the job and they needed to recruit a lot of extra staff to do this work.

The work on their first batch of 16 or so Tornado F3 aircraft started to fall behind schedule and Airwork started using 'non-standard' techniques to disassemble the airframes, most notably using cold chisels to remove jo-bolt heads as this was quicker than drilling them out. Not surprisingly, this rough handling resulted in significant damage to the structures of the centre sections of these aircraft - damage that didn't become apparent until the aircraft were returned to the RAF. Airwork were taken to court and the MOD received compensation, although not enough cover the cost of repairing the F3s. The damaged aircraft were eventually repaired by replacing their centre fuselage sections with those from the original F2s. Another excellent MoD money-saving idea! I should just add that Airwork have enjoyed a long and, largely, distinguished history providing training and services to military and civil aviation.

Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia. Tornado F3 Front Cockpit
Tornado F3 Front Cockpit. It was comfortable, quiet and easy to get on with. A nice design.

So, I attended the Tornado F3 Operational Conversion Unit (229 OCU - later 56 Squadron) at RAF Coningsby in November 1991 and took over my new post as Officer Commanding A Flight (OCA) on 43 Squadron in the spring of 1992.


Scotland - St Andrews Cross

Scotch Whisky

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No worthwhile discourse connected with Scotland could be described as entirely comprehensive without it. Scotch Malt Whisky. The word 'whisky' (or 'whiskey' for the Irish version) is an English corruption of the Gaelic 'uisgebaugh' meaning 'water of life'. The Scots have been producing it since the 15th century. In order to be a Single Scotch Malt, it must meet three conditions: it must be made in only one distillery, rather than blended with the product of any other; it must be distilled and matured in Scotland; it must be made from barley malt and no other grain or fermentable material.

Production involves five steps: malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation. To make the barley grains release sugar for fermentation, they must be partially germinated. This is achieved in the malting process where the grain is soaked in water until it begins to sprout and then dried, traditionally over a peat fire (this also gives the scotch its smoky flavour). The malt is then milled (making grist - hence 'grist to your mill') and mixed with water and left while the remainder of the starch is converted into sugar. The liquid that results from this mashing is called wort. Yeast is added and the wort is fermented to produce alcohol. The distillation is carried out in a pot-still and separates the alcohol from the water and other impurities.

The result of the distillation is known as white spirit. This has nothing to do with the stuff you use to clean paintbrushes, although at this stage it is very strong and would probably work as such. All malts are then matured in oak barrels for a minimum of three years, usually much longer. During its time in the barrel, a small amount of the spirit is lost to evaporation through the wood of the cask. This is called the 'Angels' Share'. This, however, is a small price to pay because, in return, the whisky picks up its colour, either from the barrel's previous contents (traditionally sherry), caramel, which is painted on the cask, or from the barrel being fired (burnt) after its construction. It is also becomes blessed with a variety of oils, tannin, lignin, sugars and other stuff, which add to the flavour and character of the finished Scotch.

Bowmore Courtney's favourite

After its years in the cask, it is then cut (diluted) before it is finally bottled. I might point out that cask strength whisky is not a tipple for the faint-hearted. The way it is done (producing a spirit that is around 43% alcohol by volume) seems to me to work just fine.

Every stage of the process is jealously guarded by the eagle-eyed men from Customs and Excise, after all the vast majority of the price of a bottle of whisky is tax. Researching the subject for these pages I came across a copy of the Herald Scotland from 2008 with an article on this very subject. It revealed that 72% of the price of a bottle of scotch is tax. That is seriously outrageous! No wonder there used to be so many illicit stills in Scotland.

The flavour of the finished malt is influenced by hundreds of factors. The most significant appear to be the shape of the pot-still, the water used to make the wort, the soil (and, therefore, the peat), the local atmosphere where the Scotch matures and the type of barrel used. There are four production regions each of which makes scotch with its own personality: the highlands (firm, dry and peaty whiskies in the west, heathery and spicy in the north, fruity in the south and east), the lowlands (soft and malty), Islay (salty, iodine-like, peaty) and Campbeltown (briny).

Time to move on...

Tristar and Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.
Tornado F3s Refuel from a Tristar

USAF KC-135 Tanker showing the boom

KC-135 Boom Operator
KC-135 Boom Operator

A Bit More on Air-toAir Refueling

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Back in Chapter 6 we talked about air-to-air refuelling (AAR) in the Phantom, an important procedure for extending our time on patrol or for allowing us to travel longer distances than the fuel we carried could take us. Of course, this was also a capability of the Tornado F3. One of the differences between the F3 and her ground attack cousin (and the old F4) was the fact that the flight refuelling probe was located on the left hand (port) side of the aircraft. This was good as it made AAR a little easier. That said, the airflow around the nose cone of the F3 did make the basket (drogue) move up and left in the final few feet before contact. But it was generally a pretty comfortable procedure. There's a little picture of us refuelling from a Tristar on the left.

Now, the US Air Force don't do it the same way as us. Instead of our probe and drogue on the end of a retractable hose, they have a massive refuelling boom that is trailed, actually flown by the boom operator, behind the tanker. See the photograph below/left. The theory is that the receiver positions himself in the right place behind the tanker and the boom operator flies the boom to align it with the receiver and then extends the probe at the end of the boom to plug it into a receptacle in the receiver's airframe. It works.

Of course, the two systems aren't compatible; a British interceptor (such as the Tornado F3) with a probe cannot connect with a USAF tanker with a boom. Or can't it? Well, it can if you stick a 10 foot piece of hard rubber hose on the boom with a little basket on the end of it. Now the boom operator (see his position below/left) holds the boom steady so that the receiver aircraft can fly his probe into the basket to make a connection. In order to make the fuel flow, the receiver now has to move forward just far enough to put a 90° bend in the hose. All sounds like a very good idea. It is not! Unlike a normal drogue, this adapter is a hard steel basket, which is pivoted on the end of the hard hose. If you contact a traditional, soft drogue slightly off-centre, the drogue will funnel the probe into the hose receptacle - as long as you don't smack it too hard or too far off-centre. However, contact this hard steel drogue even slightly off-centre and it will simply pivot and tip the probe out of the basket, potentially striking the receiver’s aircraft. So hooking up is much more tricky than with our system. We called this thing ' the iron maiden'.

Once connected, you have to be careful not to get the two ends of the hose in line or the hose can start to rotate like a skipping rope. It goes round faster and faster until eventually it rips the tip of your probe off and, potentially, beats you around the head with it. As the hose is fixed and cannot retract, the receiver aircraft has to be very accurate with position keeping. If the receiver moves too far forward, the hose can loop around the probe or the nose of the receiver with the potential for all kinds of nastiness. If the receiver moves too far aft, the probe will disengage and we need to hook up all over again. Staying connected to a KC-135 adapter unit is a lot harder than with a traditional retractable hose and drogue.

Once refuelling is complete, the receiver carefully moves aft until the probe disconnects from the basket. But if the receiver is too high, low, left or right of where the basket naturally wants to fly, the drogue can damage the probe or strike the receiver’s fuselage. Again, really not nice.

Oh, and we had to get the tanker to turn off one of its fuel pumps otherwise this system would force fuel into the Tornado F3 faster than the air in the internal fuel cells could be vented. At full pressure a USAF tanker could burst a Tornado F3's fuel tanks - I needn't tell you that this would not be a good thing.

This system makes USAF (and French) tankers compatible with certain other NATO (and US Navy) aircraft, but it always struck me as a bit of a lash-up, fraught with potential hazards. It's not the hardest trick in the pack, but it is an interesting passtime. I only did this when I really had to. Here's what it looks like from the boom operator's position in the tanker:

Tornado F3 AAR. Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.
Tornado F3 refuelling from a USAF KC-135 tanker. The large object with wings, top-right, is the boom.
You can see the adaptor hose attached to the boom and the 90° bend where the basket is attached
to the hose which the F3 pilot has created to make the fuel flow.

If you're interested, there's a very good article all about AAR, including the history, the pros and cons of the various systems and good descriptions and pictures at:



East Germany
The Flag of East Germany (1959-1990) bearing the coat of arms: a hammer (representing workers) and a compass (intelligentsia) surrounded by a ring of rye (farmers).

The Fall of the Soviet Union

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Then, suddenly, the most amazing thing happened. In 1991, the Soviet Union fell apart. For decades Communism had controlled a huge portion of the world, but cracks had started to appear in the foundations of the system during the eighties. Poland, Hungary, East Germany and other Soviet satellites demanded their independence and then promptly voted the Communists out of office. Suddenly the Soviet Union was no more, leaving its 15 former republics facing the challenge of determining new ways of governing themselves. The 'power vacuum' and lack of economic and political infrastructure made the transition to a market economy difficult for many of the post-Communist countries. Doubtless, the high hopes of the early, heady days of freedom were going to take many years to be realized.

The most visible and physical manifestation of the Cold War was probably the Berlin Wall, which divided a city and a nation for some 25 years. Finally, this too was to fall. Having lived with it being there most of my life, it seemed somehow odd that future generations would grow up never knowing it. So I thought it would be worth showing you what it was. In truth many who lived through its time probably didn't know just what the Berlin Wall really was. Here's a diagram and a picture, which pretty much speak for themselves. Let's hope we never see anything like this again. Oh, wait, what about Palestine? A vain hope, maybe.

The Berlin WallBerlin Wall

1 East Berlin,   2 Border area,   3 Backland Wall,   4 Signal fence,   5 Barriers,   6 Watch towers,   7 Lighting,   8 Column track,   9 Control track,
10 Anti-vehicle trenches,   11 Last Wall, known as the Wall,   12 Border,   13 West Berlin

Throughout 1990 and 1991, the entire Soviet union fell apart. Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev realized that the Soviet Union could not compete economically with the United States and her Western Allies. This was seen by many as a good thing and I respect those views. However, the Cold War created such a powerful perceived threat in the minds of politicians that they were willing to pay huge sums into Western defence budgets to ensure their security. All the superpowers needed to do was keep posturing and sabre-rattling and the Armed Forces funding was reasonably secure.

So, as soon as the threat went away and the former Soviets were suddenly good guys, governments wasted little time in re-thinking their defence spending. In fact, the British Government announced the restructuring of the Armed Forces in 1990 and the Soviet union wasn't actually formally disolved until Christmas Day 1991. No time wasted there, then. This 'restructuring' was called Options for Change and it would cut UK military manpower by around 18%, bringing the RAF down to 75,000 personnel. You see how words such as 'restructuring' (or 'review', 'change', etc) is used by politicians to avoid using the word 'cuts'.

Just briefly, the other main headlines for the RAF in Frontline First were the reduction of RAF bases in Germany from 4 to 2 (Wildenrath and Gutersloh to close) and withdrawing the F-4 Phantom from service.

Courtney flying a 43 Squadron Tornado F3 over Iceland. Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.
Courtney flying a 43 Squadron Tornado
F3 over Iceland

$3 Squadron Tornado F3s in Kuwait



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It was reported in The Arab Times on Sunday 15th November 1992 that: 'British and Kuwaiti warplanes began a week of joint manoeuvres in the skies over Kuwait on Saturday, defence officials said. Six British Tornadoes flew alongside F-18s, Mirage F-1s and A4 Skyhawks of the Kuwait Air Force to practice intercepting hostile aircraft.'

‘They had a good day’s flying’, one officer said. ‘But they had to break off early because of dust storms.’ The exercise, code named Free Sky 92, is taking place under the defence agreement Kuwait and Britain signed in February.’

Yes, that was us, The Fighting Cocks on tour in the Middle East with 8 Tornado F3s. Two weeks in Kuwait to train the Arabs to fight one another - one more triumph for British diplomacy! It would be easy to presume that this was a hangover from our old foreign policy of the days when we were pulling out of, or giving independence to, various parts of our old empire. Obviously, our aim was to partition countries in such a way that they would inevitably end up fighting themselves and, therefore, be too busy to bother us. Look at Cyprus, Palestine and Northern Ireland. What was often less clear was why we withdrew from many of these regions in the first place. But that may be the subject of a later discussion.

It is worth taking a moment to look at the events that led up to the first Gulf War and briefly to describe the action itself - just for completeness, you understand.


Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.
43 Squadron Tornado F3, RAF Leuchars


Iraqi Flag

Tornado GR1 dropping JP233 in a trial. Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia. Tornado GR1 dropping JP233

Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait 1990

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On 2nd August 1990 Iraq, led by the dictator President Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait. Their pretext was that Kuwait was, historically, part of Iraq. In fact, their aim was to take over Kuwait's considerable oil reserves. Kuwait's forces were quickly overrun despite a brave defence and little warning. They were facing the fifth largest army in the world, numbering 540,000, and really had very little chance.

Iraq officially annexed Kuwait on 8th August 1990 and the Kuwaiti people found themselves under a brutal regime. Between then and November the UN Security Council passed a succession of resolutions and demanded that Iraq withdraw unconditionally from Kuwait by 15th January 1991. Western powers assembled a 500,000 strong, multinational coalition force under the UN banner, made up of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria. The build-up phase was called Operation Desert Shield and was intended primarily to protect Saudi Arabia from the threat of Iraqi attack. The coalition force was commanded by General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

Twenty-four hours after the UN deadline had expired, Saddam Hussein showed no signs of withdrawal, so allied aircraft were ordered to begin an intensive bombing campaign aimed at military targets within Iraq and Kuwait. They used some of the world's most advanced weaponry: cruise missiles, laser-guided bombs and our own JP233 runway denial weapon (see photo left, taken during a trial of JP233 on a Tornado GR1). This phase of the operation was 'Desert Storm' and was staunchly covered by the world's media. CNN and the BBC showed the war as it happened to TV viewers around the world.

Western fighters rapidly established air superiority and the coalition forces hit Iraq's C3 centres (Command, Control and Communications) principally in Baghdad and Al Basrah. They attacked Iraq's army, which was deployed along Kuwait's southern border, and the élite, 125,000 strong Republican Guard in south-eastern Iraq and northern Kuwait. They cut the lines of communication that linked Baghdad with Saddam's troops in the field. Coalition losses were relatively light and on 3rd March 1991, Iraqi negotiators accepted allied terms for a provisional truce. On 6th April a permanent cease-fire was agreed. Iraq withdrew.

Colin Malcom, Phil Williams and Sqn Ldr Paul Courtnage (Courtney)
Part of the 43 Squadron team in Kuwait.
Colin Malcolm, Phil Williams, Sqn Ldr Paul Courtnage (Courtney).

Kuwaiti Air Force F-18 Hornets Kuwaiti Air Force F-18 Hornets

Kuwaiti Air Force A4 Skyhawk painted FREE KUWAIT
Kuwaiti Air Force A4 Skyhawk painted FREE KUWAIT

Kuwait City Kuwait City. Photo by Courtney 1992



So, how did Courtney come to be in Kuwait? This is a great story. And it's true. 43 Squadron was invited to go there to offer training (as I mentioned) and as a show of force, a deterrent to the Iraqis, if you like, to show them that we still supported the Kuwaiti Government and that any repeat of their earlier aggression would be met by force. The plan was to fly, in two formations, each of three F3s, from RAF Leuchars to Decimomannu (Sardinia) where we would refuel and have lunch before setting off for a night stop in RAF Akrotiri (Cyprus). The following day we would rendezvous with a tanker who would take us through Saudi Arabia to Kuwait, refuelling us on the way. Without the tanker, we couldn't make Cyprus to Kuwait in one hop and there was no provision or diplomatic clearance to stage via other countries.

Stage one (RAF Leuchars to Deci) went according to plan. I was leading the second three-ship about 30 minutes behind the Boss's formation. After lunch we took off from Deci and, as I raised the aircraft's landing gear, a hydraulic warning light came on in my cockpit. All the indications were of a fairly major hydraulic leak. This in itself was bad enough, but you really don't need this sort of inconvenience during a deployment overseas. Anyway, we plainly weren't going to Cyprus that afternoon.

I made sure that our number two had a firm grasp of where we were and the flight plan to Akrotiri and handed over the lead to him before turning back for Deci. We declared an emergency and told Air Traffic that we would be taking the cable as we were without nose-wheel-steering or brakes - both good things to have when landing! All went fine and we were met, thankfully, on the runway by a very helpful sergeant from 31 Sqn - a Tornado GR1 outfit who happened to be operating out of Deci at the time. Even before the Italians had pulled the jet out of the cable, he'd started opening panels and had diagnosed the snag there and then. Apparently, there was a minute split in a seal (basically a very expensive tap washer) through which we had dumped nearly 10 litres of hydraulic fluid in less than 2 seconds. Our friendly sergeant reckoned he could fix it by tomorrow. I was more sceptical, based on the fact that our own engineers could probably spin this job out for a few days and that was at home, with the right spares and equipment and plenty of help from the engineering empire. This guy would be working in his spare time, with GR1 parts, no help and he would need to fix a fairly major piece of ground equipment before he could replenish our hydraulics.

By lunchtime the next day the jet was, against all apparent odds, declared serviceable, which was more than could be said for the outrageous plan we had devised to get to Kuwait. A phone conversation with my boss had ended with the, somewhat dubious statement: 'OK Courtney, we'll get airborne from Akrotiri at 1200, meet up with the tanker and then we'll head west and hang around to see if you can join up with us. If you don't, you're on your own. See you in Kuwait, Courtney.'

In other words - meet us somewhere over the Mediterranean, don't know where, don't know when. No frequencies, no callsigns, no plan of action, no bloody clue really. Not what I would describe as a robust plan. Would you be surprised to discover that we didn't, in fact, join up with the rest of the formation? Indeed, I think we did exceptionally well to reach Akrotiri that night. Well, I've been stuck in worse places than Akrotiri, but that wasn't really the point. I was expected to make my way to Kuwait. I had no flight plan, no diplomatic clearance to go anywhere else and not many ideas. Still, my nav and I made the best of things and settled into a hearty Greek meal washed down with lashings of fine Cyprus wine.

The following morning my plan was to find out if there were any likely airfields, where we could refuel, and that would put me in range of Kuwait. Cairo looked like the best option, on paper anyway. My solution to the diplomatic clearance problem was to call the British Embassy in Cairo to see if they could clear me a way through. Although it was the Arabic weekend, I managed to trace somebody there who seemed to think that it would be all right. He was sure they would let me in.

So, we filed our flight plans (one Akrotiri to Cairo and the other Cairo to Kuwait). Our fuel plan was based on a best guess, not too much head wind and no deviations from track unless they were short cuts. The first leg was short and uneventful and Air Traffic Control at Cairo International seemed pretty pleased to see us. My first doubts were aroused by the collection of old rusted aircraft hulks that were scattered around the airport. A very large number of former airliners that had obviously come to Cairo and, for some reason, never left.

When we parked our Tornado, we were met by an armed soldier, who spoke no English, and a junior member of the British Embassy staff who seemed genuinely surprised that we had landed here on purpose. I checked over the aircraft to make sure that everything was all right for the next leg - the long way over the length of 'The Empty Quarter'. To my dismay, the left engine had burned or lost an astounding quantity of oil. The last servicing had been carried out in Cyprus by an F3 squadron's engineers so I had no way of knowing exactly how full it had been before we left. Had it been full before, it certainly wasn't going to make it all the way across the Arabian Desert at the rate it appeared to be using oil. I set about the complicated task of getting the Egyptians to give us the fuel we needed while my nav went off to find some Tornado engine oil. The nice man in the oil store offered him all the Boeing 707 oil he could use, but nothing for a Tornado F3. By now the engines had cooled and the oil level had crept (barely) into limits although the amount it had used on the short leg from Cyprus was still more than a little concerning. The flunky from the embassy advised us that if we already had a flight plan accepted, we should use it quickly. I explained that getting in had been a doddle, but he countered by telling us that getting into this place wasn't the problem. His tip was that if we had fuel, a working aircraft and a flight plan to get the hell out of there. Time Courtney made a run for it!

Tornado F3 Weapons - Skyflash, AIM9L Sidewinder. Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia. Skyflash AAM on a Tornado F3 AIM9L Sidewinder on a Tornado F3 Tornado F3 Air-to-Air Weapons: Skyflash semi-active radar-guided missile (left). AIM9L Sidewinder, sort-range infrared-guided missile.

The Empty Quarter The Empty Quarter really is empty.

Kuwait Towers Postcard from Kuwait City

We agreed that my plan was a good one so we went back to the jet to be met by the armed guard who didn't seem very keen on us going anywhere near it. A large back-hander induced him to see life our way, which meant that things were starting to go a bit better again. That is until we met the man with the fuel browser. We paid him off too, leapt in the jet and buggered off. Once airborne we circled Cairo to have a quick look at the Pyramids and set off eastward. Past the Red Sea, we entered the desert and started working out how the fuel plan was going - not all that well, but at least the Tornado F3 had a habit of making up a bit as it got lighter. What we couldn't check in the air, of course, was the engine oil, which was my biggest anxiety. For the next three hours we spoke to one or two places I've never heard of and just kept to the plan, nurturing the fuel and the engines.

As we entered Saudi Arabia I explained to them that we would dearly love all the short cuts they could offer. The Empty Quarter really is empty; just mile after mile of sand. In our slightly bored state, we even started to speculate about what we would do if the engines quit on us out here. It looked like an awfully big place to be on the ground.

Worse than holding us to our plan, the Saudis insisted that we went all the way to Bahrain before letting us turn north for Kuwait, adding 150 unwanted miles to our journey. Even though things were looking better (according to my mental arithmetic) the fuel plan just wasn't going to cope with that. Pleading, arguing and getting stroppy didn't help, so I resorted to lying.

I agreed to their plan, as you do, and promptly cut the corner anyway. They soon noticed and ordered us to return to track. I pushed them as far as I could until it was too late for them to do anything about it. We made it to Kuwait, but only just.

When I explained to our engineers about the engine oil, or lack thereof, they asked me why I hadn't topped it up. I explained that we couldn't get any of the right sort in Cairo. At this point one of our groundcrew opened up an obscure panel on the jet and pulled out a can with O-130 stencilled on it. This, apparently, was the long sought-after Tornado F3 engine oil that we'd been carrying with us all the way from the UK! Nice one, Courtney!

43 Squadron flew with the Kuwaiti Air Force for two weeks and had a good chance to look at the country, which, not surprisingly, is mostly sand. The airfields, wrecked during the gulf war, remained in ruins and much of the infrastructure still displayed obvious signs of damage. Talking to one of their pilots who had been there on the night of the invasion, it became apparent that the whole thing had come as a ghastly surprise to them. However, despite being hopelessly outnumbered, the Air Force had launched everything it could find against Saddam's forces. They had certainly put up a gallant fight.

The trip home was far less exciting. We stayed with the VC-10 (below) and let the marvellous tanker captain sort out all the diplomatic issues and keep us topped up with lots of lovely jet fuel.

Tornado F3s refuelling from a VC-10 tanker
Tornado F3s refuelling from a VC-10 tanker

Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia. Tornado F3 on QRA from RAF Leuchars

Tornado F3 - 43 Squadron, The Fighting Cocks

Tornado F3 refuels from a VC-10 Tanker. Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.
A 43 Squadron Tornado F3 refuelling from a VC-10 tanker on the way to Cyprus.


More Lost Friends

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The runway at RAF Leuchars was to be resurfaced during the summer of 1994 and, therefore, we were required to 'bolt-hole' to Cyprus for 2 months. Unusually for a Cyprus detachment, we were doing a lot of night flying as well as the normal daytime gunnery. This was in order to complete the prescribed NVG (Night Vision Goggles) training in preparation for operations in Bosnia, which were to follow.

Not long into our deployment to Cyprus, I stared to get an uneasy feeling. I couldn't put my finger on anything specific, but something did not feel right. I had to give the boys a bollocking about excessive noise late at night, which wasn't strictly fair, especially as I and my team had been guilty of the same thing, but I was more concerned about the squadron's collective safety. One night, I went to bed late after night flying with an uneasy feeling about something that I couldn't quite place. When I was woken early the next morning by a very serious looking QWI, I knew straight away what had happened.

On 8th July 1994 one of our crews, who had been flying on the early morning wave, had crashed whilst recovering to Akrotiri after a gunnery sortie in a 43 Squadron Tornado F3, ZH558. I dressed quickly and went into work with him. At first it was thought that they had ejected safely as parachutes had been seen in the water. It soon became apparent that they had both been killed. Later that afternoon the Station Medical Officer said that the bodies would have to be formally identified. The Boss was not in a good state to do this so I offered to go in his place. The Doc drove me to TPMH (The Princess Margaret's Hospital) and took me through to the morgue. A young Lance Corporal Medic explained to me exactly what was required and what to expect. He was very supportive and considerate. He took me in and showed me the bodies. What a ghastly feeling. They looked just like the people I knew so well, but, with their lives gone, they were just cold slabs of meat. Apart from other, more obvious emotions, I was surprised by the overpowering sense of helplessness. I wanted to wake them up, bring them back, somehow undo whatever terrible thing had happened. I was totally stunned. This was all too much, too horrible, too pointless.

Perhaps I should add here that I don't mean to give the impression that crew of ZH558 had been up late and partying the night before and I do not doubt their fitness to fly. It's also worth adding that the pilot of ZH558 had been involved in another accident (ZE858) in October the previous year (1993). He and his nav had ejected safely from and aircraft with a double engine fire and was still awaiting the outcome of the Board of Inquiry into that incident. Click for the ZE858 BoI summary (21 October 1993). Click for the ZH558 BoI summary (8 July 1994).

As a result of these two crashes and a number of disagreements with his superiors, our boss was subsequently relieved of his command. Consider that the Squadron had had a busy year already, been detached away from home for three months, had three more months of flying over hostile territory to look forward to and had just lost two of our number. You could say that things were a little unsettled.


On 14th July 1994, Defence Secretary Malcolm Rifkind announced the outcomes of his defence cost study, - yet another round of cuts coming just 4 years behind Options for Change. This one was called Frontline First, which sounds really positive, doesn't it? This one would chop a further 7,500 personnel from the RAF (9,000 from the Navy!) and close RAF Scampton, RAF Finningley and RAF Laabruch.

Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.

Josip Tito Josip Broz Tito


Operation Deny Flight - Bosnia

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And so, to the fighting in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia and, in particular, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This conflict is not terribly well understood, so I thought I might briefly explain a little about what went on. The fighting did not trace back solely to ancient, ethnic hatreds, but had been largely hyped by manipulative politicians. Serbs and Croats of all religious persuasions had lived together in relative peace in this region for centuries - especially under the dictator, Tito. I wouldn't over-state this peace, but it is true to say that in Bosnia and the Krajina, the rate of intermarriage between different ethnic and religious groups was comparatively high. The Serbs considered Bosnia to be part of Serbia; indeed, this was the spark that ignited the First World War when in June 1914 the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serb student from Bosnia, Gavrilo Princip.

At the end of the WWII, Josip Broz Tito reconciled all the various parts of Yugoslavia and created a Yugoslav federation with Bosnia and Herzegovina as one of its republics, despite insistence by the Serbs that the region should be one of its provinces like Vojvodina and Kosovo. During the 1960s Tito granted the Muslims a distinct ethnic status, in an effort to put them on equal footing with Serbs and Croats. Tito made the peoples of Yugoslavia live together. There have always been some underlying ethnic tensions, but these only worsened significantly following Tito's death in 1980.

In 1990 the Communist party finally yielded power in Yugoslavia. A diversity of political parties was quickly forged throughout the country, each promoting its own cause and representing a particular ethnic group. Prior to the war, in 1991, Yugoslavia comprised 6 countries: Slovenia in the north, Montenegro & Macedonia in the south, Serbia in the east, Bosnia & Herzegovina in the centre and, to its west, the crescent shaped Croatia. This clearly needs a map:

Yugoslavia map

Bosnia and Herzegovina had a total population of some 4,124,000 and the basic problem stemmed from the fact that the ethnic divisions in the area did not conform to the country's boundaries.

During 1991, ethnic tensions throughout Yugoslavia helped weaken the precarious Bosnian presidency. In that June, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia and many Serbs throughout the remaining republics began proclaiming their support for a Serb-dominated federal Yugoslavia. In Bosnia and Croatia, they formed Serbian Autonomous Regions, renounced by the Bosnian government. This led to armed conflict that escalated after Macedonia declared its independence that September. The Yugoslav People's Army demonstrated its opposition to the secession of republics by sending in forces in an attempt to re-impose the federation. Belgrade was concerned that, under a Muslim government, Serbs in Bosnia would be ill-represented and poorly treated. Serbia was quick to enlist the help of the Bosnian Serbs and the upper echelons of the remains of the former Yugoslav army and rapidly invaded 70% of Bosnia, laid siege to Sarajevo and set about 'cleansing' the region of all who were not Serbian.

Sqn Ldr Paul Courtnage (Courtney) and Flt Lt Harry Kemsley
Courtney and 'Arry, UN Tornado F3
aircrew in Operation Deny Flight
(Sqn Ldr Paul Courtnage &
Flt Lt Harry Kemsley)


The UN found itself in the middle of a fight performing a, supposedly impartial, peacekeeping role. French and British soldiers did much to patch up local disagreements and to improve or stabilise relationships. UNPROFOR (UN Protection Force) negotiated temporary cease-fires around the protected areas, but this required the disarming of the local Muslim population and were, therefore, obliged to defend these areas and were compelled to use military force to support Sarajevo. Part of the UN's mission was to enforce a 'No-fly' zone over Bosnia, designed to prevent the use of helicopters to move troops and arms and to eliminate the use of air power against Bosnian positions. This was Operation Deny Flight (Op Deny Flight). Op Deny Flight began on 12th April 1993 and the RAF's Tornado F3 squadrons, in rotation, contributed to this multi-national effort. 43 Squadron's turn came in 1994.

We operated out of Gioia del Colle in the south of Italy and lived in the Hotel Svevo in the town. It is a pleasant, somewhat quiet area, largely concerned with agriculture. I flew with my nav, Harry Kemsley. Our normal routine, for our three-month tour of duty, was to fly the dawn patrol over Bosnia. This involved getting up at 01:30 in the morning to have breakfast, brief, crew-in, launch and transit to the area. We were supported by Tristar tankers (see photograph in the left margin, down a bit) and AWACS. Our normal time on patrol was about four hours, provided that the formation that was supposed to be relieving us turned up. You might call it the 'graveyard shift' and, after the first couple of months, it quickly started to get more than a little monotonous. But the job needed doing.

However, in my opinion, the operation could not be described as a total success. The UN did not control the region; the security was fragile, supply flights were carried out only when Serbs allowed them and the loss of the Bihac pocket and other protected areas showed that the UN could not guarantee to defend the safe zones. Furthermore, the Op Deny Flight no-fly zone was violated daily despite our Tornado F3s and numerous other air defence, ground attack, close air support, command and control and tanker aircraft. We had the hardware, but not the rules of engagement to enforce the Op Deny Flight no-fly zone.

As an example, Harry Kemsley and I intercepted a Russian-built transport helicopter in southern Bosnia, one morning, and our only recourse was to transmit repeated warnings on Guard (the international distress frequency, normally monitored by aircraft):

Serbian helicopter 10 miles south of Banja Luka, you are in violation of United Nations resolutions 781 and 786 (which he knew). You are required to leave the United Nations No-Fly Zone or land immediately (which he didn't) or you will be engaged (which he wouldn't be and he knew it).

So he would ignore us and we could do nothing, unless it was in self defence. We certainly could not shoot at a helicopter going about his business - even if that business was moving troops to round up and slaughter Bosnian civilians. It was frustrating. The Serbs would shoot at us regularly and they managed to shoot down a US F-16 - the Mrkonjić Grad incident. It was not the thought of being shot at that caused my major concern; it was the reception that awaited downed crews on the ground. Neither side could be guaranteed to give us a warm and friendly welcome.

Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia. Tornado F3 on QRA

RAF Tristar and Tornado F3s - Op Deny Flight. Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia. Sqn Ldr Paul Courtnage air-to-air refuelling in a Tornado F3 from an RAF Tristar - Op Deny Flight

Tornado F3 - Op Deny Flight

Just occasionally the Serbs would go too far and the UN's self-restraint would snap. At such times a mission of some description would be mounted to slap them down again. More often than not this would assume the form of a show of force rather than direct military action. On the evening of 22nd September, Harry Kemsley and I were sent to provide 'top cover' for such an operation against a Serb Army tank. In the failing evening light, a Jaguar pilot of our acquaintance dropped his bomb on an unmanned T55 tank scoring a 'kill'. This was the first bomb to be dropped in anger on the European mainland since 1945. Click here for a picture.

We were all required by the Op Deny Flight Operation Order to go to the north of Italy once during our tour of duty here to visit the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Vicenza from which the Operation was run. Four of us went to Venice for one weekend, visited the centre on the Friday morning and then had a little time to see, very briefly, the sights. Strangely, this seemingly insignificant part of the tale was to become highly consequential sometime later. You'll have to wait a while for that particular and horrific story.

The vast majority of the poor people that lived and died and who were brutalized or humiliated during the wars in Kuwait and the FRY (Former Republic of Yugoslavia) were simply ordinary people who wanted to be left alone to get on with their lives, growing fruit, making wine, herding camels or scraping a meagre living out of oil. They had little interest in the ambitions of politicians, manipulators or the power hungry, they wanted to feed and educate their children in safety. I regularly hear people, who don't have to suffer the hardship, atrocities and brutality of such conflicts, ask whether we should interfere, what right we have to get involved or why we think we can impose our view of democracy on other nations? Well, having seen the effects of these two wars, I can only say, thank God we went to help them, because without our intervention the terrible human suffering would have been much, much worse than it already was and the evil men behind these war crimes would have been able to continue unabated. I am proud to have done my bit to help these innocent people.

Op Deny Flight was terminated on 20th December 1995 after over 100,000 sorties.

Harry Kemsley and Courtney - Op Deny Flight

Flt LtHarry Kemsley and Sqn Ldr Paul Courtnage (Courtney) Harry Kemsley Paul Courtnage (Courtney)
Blue Berets: Flt Lt Harry Kemsley and Sqn Ldr Paul Courtnage (Courtney) - UN Tornado F3 aircrew on Op Deny Flight - 1994


A short video, not by me, as a tribute to the Tornado F3. Some
good cockpit and radar footage. Actually the one at the start is an F2.


Tornado F3 Front Cockpit. Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.
My Tornado F3 Front Cockpit - taken on Op Deny Flight.

Click here for a pdf version of a
short history of 43 Squadron

It occurs to me that this bit has been somewhat serious so far and quite rightly so. However, it's time to move on, as there are literally hundreds of other things I want to tell you about. For example, what used to happen to the poor bastards that got sick in the olden days? This may be one of my creative imaginings so, if you just can't wait to get on with the story, click the Skip This Section button below.



Trepanning Trepanning. Why?

How to be a Doctor

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Medical matters can be something of a mystery. Doctors hate letting you see the notes they write about you and even if they do, you can't understand them because they are taught to scrawl in such an untidy fashion as to render their graphology completely unintelligible to the untrained eye. Also they are encouraged to use words that we ordinary folk would never comprehend in order to obfuscate their meaning. There are good reasons for this. The handwriting thing is a form of code. If you could read their notes, you'd be worried about what's wrong with you and, if you could understand the words they use, you'd suddenly realize that there isn't really all that much to being a doctor, as I shall now demonstrate. After this short article you should be fully capable of diagnosing all the major diseases, prescribing curative medicines and performing elementary brain surgery. As usual, I shall keep it simple and shall make no reference to irrelevant academic material; this would only confuse. To understand the science, you need to know a little of its history. This is generally accepted to be long and complicated. However, if we ignore the uninteresting bits (which is most of it, actually), we can condense the annals of medicine into a reasonably concise catalogue of events and people. Oh, and let me assure you that all of this is, essentially true. No, really, it is.

In 1500BC a bunch of intellectuals in China, who called themselves Sages, noticed that when a warrior recovered from an arrow wound, he would often also recover from any other ailment from which he may have been suffering. Being a clever bunch, they reasoned that all they needed to do was deliberately to inflict the same wounds on sick people and they would suddenly get better. It was a charming idea and all went well until they realized that shooting the infirm with arrows was more likely to kill them than the disease from which they were already suffering. So they stopped using arrows and elected to stick pins in them instead. Thus was acupuncture invented. Today it is used to cure arthritis, rheumatism, stress and allergies. Should you need to employ this ancient yet efficacious technique, be very careful not to tell any large, rugby-playing patients, 'You may feel a bit of a prick', because this joke has been used so many times before and may, therefore, cause offence.

Prehistoric man used to perform brain surgery or something very similar. In cases of bad headaches or muddled thinking, they would carefully cut out a small piece of the skull in order to relieve pressure on the brain and to let out the evil spirits. They called it trepanning and you have to be extremely careful with this as the skull bone can easily ruin the edge on a good saw. Most people need this procedure like a hole in the head so you might wish to look for a less extreme treatment before reverting to it. Personally, I'm happy to live with the occasional headache and my frequent muddled thinking if this is the alternative.

Shamans, who predate our modern doctors by a long way, discovered that infusions and elixirs extracted from certain herbs and wild plants would make sick people well again. It all started one day in June when the blokes that the Shamans worked for were having a bit of a battle with their neighbours. One of the soldiers wanted to make his blowpipe darts more lethal and dipped them into a Shaman's vial of herbal tea concentrate. The newly treated darts flew true and struck their targets, inflicting a painful sting. Much to the warrior's horror, the opposition immediately experienced a dramatic improvement in their health and the hostile forces soon became so strong and healthy that they defeated the Shaman's employers. Medicine can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands.

About the same time as the Chinese Sages were sticking needles into their patients, the ancient Egyptians, who were also fighting a lot of wars, began to study the ghastly wounds inflicted on their infantrymen and wrote books on how to help them to heal. The basic idea was to stitch them up and cover them in some kind of clean cloth. This procedure has worked fantastically well ever since. We use the word suture now because it sounds less scary that stitch and it is traditional to use as many Latin words as possible in medicine because it makes it all seem more intellectual. Ingeniosum reddit videris Latine (Latin makes you seem clever).

A Greek gentleman by the name of Reginald Hippocrates spotted the financial worth of medicine and set himself up as a bit of a guru in this field. Although most of the work had already been done by the Egyptians, Shamans and Sages, he wrote a couple of books, declared himself the 'Father of Medicine' and established the first school of doctoring. In order to stop his contemporaries from moving in on his enterprise, he made his students accede to a contract, which, later, gave rise to the Hippocratic oath. His graduates would have to agree to use their skill to help the sick to the best of their abilities and judgment. They had to state that they would not give a fatal draught to anyone even if asked for or to suggest such a thing to a patient - he realized that dead patients did not pay doctor's fees. Later, he added a bit which went, 'I will not abuse my position to indulge in sexual relationships with men or women'. Finally, in order to guard the secrets of his trade, he made them declare that whatever they saw or heard, whether professionally or privately, they would keep secret and tell no one. So, you must not go blabbing about your patients' embarrassing deformities or unpleasant afflictions.

Later, realising the sales potential of produce from his uncle's allotment, he ventured into the field of diet and nutrition. He recommended that his patients ate plenty of fruit and vegetables. His Uncle Theo's fruit and veg stall did a cracking trade. He also discovered that his father's branding iron, although terribly painful, closed-up nasty wounds rather nicely and came up with the term cauterization. Do not do this unless you really have to.

The Romans

Barber's Pole

The Romans didn't really get this new-fangled medicine thing. They were usually too busy attending the Games (Lions, Gladiators, Christians, etc), going to orgies or fighting wars to worry about learning such trifling stuff. This gave the Greeks a fabulous opportunity to move in and make a mint as doctors to the rich Roman bastards (as they used to call them). So, a Greek physician called Dr Asclepiades went to Rome around 100BC and set up a clinic. His practice was an instant success. There being no Roman doctors around and plenty of horrific injuries sustained during the games and wars, not to mention the antisocial infections they picked up during their orgies, he had more trade than he could handle and so his practice expanded and he was able to employ other trainee doctors and some really pretty nurses. Furthermore, his policy that disease should be treated safely, quickly and pleasantly meant that his underlings had to learn the use of massage, herbal medication and wine. He eventually was able to give up practicing medicine altogether because he made even more money operating his chains of sensual body massage parlours, narcotic traffickers and off-licences.

Another bloke, Thessalus, almost blew it for the medical profession when he declared that no formal training was required to go into medicine - I wouldn't want you to think that I in any way support this view. He reckoned that anyone could pick-up all the useful tips they needed in six months and promptly opened his school specializing in short term correspondence courses in medicine. The symbol of his academy was a badge depicting his favourite experimental subjects, a hen and a duck. It was this that gave rise to the term 'quack' and we all know what we think of them. The great medical schools and teaching hospitals that were to follow didn't like to talk about Thessalus. We still don't.

Neurology started in the second century AD when a researcher named Galen started doing vivisections of pigs in public. As a sideshow to the games, this was quite an attraction although I don't advise you to try it today - it is a very nasty thing to be doing. Anyway, this Galen used carefully to cut various nerves in the pig's neck and showed how this stopped appropriate bits of the pig from working. He could not, however, reconnect them. This is an important point to hoist on-board. It may, in fact, be possible to reconnect nerves, but it is unimaginably difficult and you probably won't ever pull off this little trick. If faced with a situation, such as severed nerves, which exceeds your curative competence, use the tried and tested medical technique of referring the case to a specialist. It works every time and neatly passes the problem onto someone else. Preferably someone much more clever. Anyway, Galen was a very skilful researcher and he took to cutting up dead animals to find out what went on inside them. He liked to use small apes as he figured that their anatomies were very similar to man's. And I guess he was right.

When the Dark Ages came along, all this science regressed somewhat and people started believing in the humours - and I am not talking about comedy here. People were a bit dim in those days, you see, and they tended to go for stories with appeal rather than those with a ring of truth or scientific basis. Such peculiarities are fine by me, but didn't do very much for the progress of science or history. Anyway, they embraced the existence of four humours that controlled various aspects of their behaviour and health. A healthful body was one in which the humours were in balance. Too much or too little of one or other lead to illness. An excess of sanguine gave rise to too much passion or unhealthy desires (again, sounds fine to me). Phlegmatic humour instills calmness while yellow bile or colic humour caused bad temper and black bile or melancholic humour caused depression. In today's more enlightened times we know better. But it is comforting to note that their cures were as dubious as their understanding of biology. Bloodletting was a favourite cure of the times. I really wouldn't advise that you employ this treatment unless it's on a person whose demeanour you think would be greatly improved by death.

In the middle ages, people went to barbers' shops for a haircut, a shave, to have teeth pulled or, if required, to have blood let. The resulting blood-soaked cloths gave rise to the red and white barbers pole that lives on today. I know of a couple of barbers who still practice bloodletting, although I don't think it's deliberate. Generally though, after this dark period, things got better and society started to move forward again. For example, people had messed with the idea of birth control for some time. The Romans would kill or abandon unwanted babies. Roman women thought this was a bit brutal, even for Romans, so they experimented with inserting plugs of gum to act as a barrier. In the sixteenth century, the first condom was invented, mainly to stop gentlemen from catching the pox in the various brothels of the day. These early affairs were made from treated cloth but they did pave the way for the more contemporary vulcanized version.

Patients with ocular difficulties can be a problem. Again, you might want to send them to an optician (or an optometrist, if you know what that is), but on no account allow them to go until you have humiliated them by making them read one of those ridiculous eye charts. Starting with the big 'A' at the top, your reaction to each letter read should become increasingly disparaging as they proceed down the chart. Murmurs of approval should slowly change to surprise, astonishment and, finally, impatience - regardless of whether they get it right or not.

Actually, sight correction is an older science than you might think. Glasses were invented by Roger Bacon in the thirteenth century and, in 1775, Benjamin Franklin invented the contact lens, although the first successful, working pair weren't actually manufactured until the 1880s. Still, we don't need to go into this any further because it's probably easier to send them all to SpecSavers for a check-up. Do what every employer in the country does and assure your patient that they are entitled to a free eye test. Imagine how cross they'll be when it's all too late and they find out that they are not.

Back to the meat of the matter, disease. In the 1600s, the plague was everywhere. This gave rise to the idea that sick people have a nasty habit of passing on their problem to others. The best thing to do about the plague is to avoid it - like the plague. However, it did do some good in that it pointed to the fact that disease was caused by some agent that can pass between people and this line of thinking eventually lead to the discovery of bacteria and got rid of their silly ideas about humours. This was reinforced in the 1700s when they started to vaccinate people against smallpox. Eventually, in 1928, Sir Alexander Flemming discovered something really useful. He used to mess around with germs a lot and got a great deal of fun out of making yogurt. When he accidentally dropped some mouldy bread into a fresh batch of yogurt, he found that it stopped it working properly because the mould killed his little germs that made the milk turn into yogurt. He had discovered penicillin, which is what the doctors give away to anyone they can, partly because it kills bacteria and partly because they have shares in the pharmaceutical company that makes the tablets. Obviously doctors have been just as generous with modern antibiotics, but this has given rise to bacteria that have become resistant to such treatments. One of the biggest users of antibiotics is the beef industry - they are routinely given to cattle to ward off disease and promote growth. Idiots!



The topic of surgery is bound to crop up. My advice is to side step it if at all possible because it really is terribly messy. If you have no option but to start cutting people open you should bear two other historical occurrences in mind. First, being cut up really hurts. That's why they did it to William Wallace in 1305. So, in 1846, a Dr John Warren started using anaesthetic and found that his patients much preferred this to having a leather strap to bite on while being cut open or having a limb sawn off - I think I agree with them. Second there is a considerable risk of infection, but this too was successfully combated by the use of antiseptics and by sterilization in the 1860s. Antibiotics to follow work pretty well to, but don't over do this, please.

Now, from the history I have given you, you have a pretty thorough grounding in medical science and are nearly ready to go into practice. More modern inventions such as X-rays, ultrasound, MRI and genes merely allow private practitioners to charge more for their services and may be worth further research, but I shall leave it for now. New, modern drugs are being invented continually, which is just as well because so are new diseases. Unfortunately, some, such as the common cold, still fail to respond to any existing treatment. For this reason, many doctors try to distance themselves from such ailments. They represent the limit of their knowledge so doctors see these issues as potential failures that are bad for business. On the other hand, this offers doctors a very useful excuse in the event they cannot identify or treat an ailment - "It's a virus. It's been going around." Antibiotics don't work against viruses. Actually, what does? Antivirals just seem to annoy them.

Finally, if you end up with a patient whose fever really baffles you, give them a large dose of laxative and a dozen anti-depressants. They'll spend the rest of the day on the toilet, but they'll be quite happy about it. Remember that you need a licence to practice so now you need to go and take the exams and everything. They're reasonably straightforward so I wish you luck. Oh, and don't bother mentioning that your medical education came from this webpage. If you do, your medical career may be somewhat restricted and I shall deny everything.

Paul Courtnage Paul Courtnage shooting clays.


Leaving Leuchars

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Probably time to get back to the story now...

My closing months on 43 Squadron at RAF Leuchars were also my final months flying the Tornado F3; in fact my final months flying anything. Of course, I would fly in aircraft again - at every opportunity - but in terms of being a pilot on a flying tour, this was the end of an era.

So, I left the Fighting Cocks, 43 Squadron, in Italy guarding the skies over Bosnia and flew one of our Tornado F3s home to the UK. Time to be moving on. I spent a little time indulging myself, doing some shooting (see left) and tidying up my affairs before the next phase of my life. Sqn Ldr Paul Courtnage was moving on.

The Yorkshire Golfballs

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Just one small footnote to this section as this was the end of another era. In 1962 RCA built three 40 metre 'golf balls' on Snod Hill in the North York Moors. These were a source of great controversy as they contained massive early warning radars, part of BMEWS - Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. However, they soon became a local tourist attraction and much-loved landmark.

Each rotating radar antenna weighed in at an impressive 110 tons and belted out some 5 million watts of power, capable of tracking objects 3,000 miles away. In November of 1992 after 28 years of service their duties were taken over by a modern, 32 metre high, pyramid-shaped, phased array AN/FPS-115 radar built by Raytheon. The new radar operates in the UHF (420-450 MHz) frequency range, outputs some 2,500,000 watts of radar energy and can track 800 objects simultaneously.

Once the new system was operational, the famous golf balls were dismantled - again attracting considerable protest - and the land restored to its natural state. Funny how something that had been the cause of so much protest and opposition ended up being virtually a national treasure. You complained when we put them up, you complained when we took them down! Actually, you even complained when we upgraded the new system in 2007. Never happy!

Fylingdales Early Warning Radar                 Fylinbgdales 1993
The 'Fylingdales Golf Balls' in 1988 and (right) the new 2.5 megawatt AN/FPS-115 phased-array 'pyramid' radar in 1993.


Tornado F3

Initial Operational Capability: 1986
Production: 173
  BAE Systems

Air-to-Air Missiles:
  AIM-120C AMRAAM (4)
  AIM-132 ASRAAM (4)
  AIM-9M Sidewinder (4)
  Skyflash (4)

Gun: 27 mm Mauser (1)

Power plant:
  RB199-34R Mk104 (2)

Protection Systems:
  BOL (SAAB) Countermeasures dispenser
  Towed Radar Decoy

Crew: 2
Height: 6 m
Length: 18.7 m
Wingspan: 13.9 m

Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.

      Max Weight: 28,500 kg (62,831 lb)
      Min Weight: 14,000 kg (30,864 lb)
      Payload: 9,000 kg (19,841 lb)
      Thrust: 33,040 lb (14,987 kg)
      Ceiling: 21,336 m (70,000 ft)
      Endurance: 2 hours
      Max Range 1,100 km (594 nm)
      Maximum Speed 731 ms-1 (Mach 2.20)


Tornado F3. Foxhunter Radar AI24. 43 Squadron Fighting Cocks. Op Deny Flight. Bosnia.
Tornado F3, 43 Squadron, RAF Leuchars - 'GF' was the 43 Squadron flagship because, by coincidence, GF stands for the Squadron motto, Gloria Finis.
Two aircraft (both in this slideshow) wore that tail letters GF, ZG797 and ZE887, which is now in the RAF Museum at Hendon (see Chapter 16)

Tornado F3 DiagramTornado F3 Cutaway diagram, courtesy of Flight International.
Note that this drawing was made before the front RHWR antenna was moved from the front of the fin.

Paul Courtnage

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