On the night of the 16th – 17th of January 1991, under the cover of darkness the first wave of Tornadoes took off from Bahrain International Airport on what was undoubtedly the most dangerous of all the Gulf War missions – the destruction of Iraqi airfields by low-level bombing using JP223 runway denial systems. That morning as the planes returned to their base the world woke up to the news that Operation Desert Storm had started. With these Tornadoes suffering the highest loss to mission ratio the missions were pulled after just six days but that night, that first flight into the unknown, was caught on film. Some two decades later I’d like to share with you that moving and original footage:
Among the crew on that first mission was a young RAF officer by the name of Tony McGlone. Tony lived for flying – There was nothing else he wanted to do and no other dream to follow. From his first days as a cadet flying gliders to his last days training the pilots of tomorrow Tony loved nothing more than to take to the air.
Today, after a long and brave battle with cancer and still an officer in the RAF, Tony McGlone slipped the surly bonds of Earth. He leaves behind two beautiful daughters and a devoted wife – my sister Ruth.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
— John Gillespie Magee, Jr