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Operation El Dorado Canyon,15 April 1986

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Operation El Dorado Canyon,15 April 1986

Old 15th Apr 2021, 20:14
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I remember the TV news in the UK, showing F1-11s arriving at Boscombe Down from Cannon AFB IIRC and tankers galore going into Fairford and Midenhall and that was before the raid.
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Old 15th Apr 2021, 21:01
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I was returning to RAF West Raynham from RAF Buchan with a number of other members of the station Basketball team after an 11 Group cup match on the night of the raid and saw a large amount of activity at Mildenhall while at Ely station. Knowing that there were no major exercises planned, I made the comment that the Yanks were most likely bombing Libya. Turning the TV on in the Morning cue, Kate Adie on the TV in Tripoli confirming my comment.
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Old 15th Apr 2021, 22:54
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Originally Posted by ExAscoteer2 View Post
It was: 'LIBYA - Lakenheath Is Bombing Your Ass'.
Ah, OK ,thanks for the correction!
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Old 16th Apr 2021, 06:02
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The F111s arriving at Boscombe had nothing to do with the raid; I seem to remember that was later in the year and raised a lot of erroneous speculation.
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Old 16th Apr 2021, 06:40
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Kaitakbowler
Crab, as I recall, the morning following the Tripoli raid Akr went into lockdown, first I knew of it was returning to base on the morning after the raid, greeted by 2 CVRT either side the gate. All the beaches were closed, and the Regiment built a sangar, observation point on the roof of the sailing club. Restrictions continued until late July, as I recall. The attack on August 3 was as you say royally cocked up by the terrorists, thank god. SWMBO was in the shower at the sailing club when all hell let loose and the changing room became very full very quickly, much to her bemusement. The little girl who got the bravery award, for rescuing her baby brother from the rear of a car was my next door neighbour, her mother was injured in her married quarter when a mortar landed in the back garden. We were very lucky that Sunday afternoon. BTW you weren't the pilot who did the NI style vehicle stop on Lady's mile that afternoon, were you?
I was the SDO and started questioning ground ops when I heard the first mortars - they told me they thought something was happening at ARABs so I set off to find out, I was just turning onto the beach road when the ambulance went past me and we arrived together to find everyone huddled on the patio asking if it was safe.

After someone briefly explained about the RPG rounds and the car park being hosed down, I went to the security gate - which the terrorists had mistakenly thought was a crash gate and bounced off it in their car - and found the AK, RPG launcher and a 9mm round embedded in the lock of the gate and it suddenly got rather serious.

As I was leaving my house a colleague, also ex-NI, drove past shouting we were being mortared and it was he who went straight to the Sqn and got airborne to try and find the getaway car.
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Old 16th Apr 2021, 09:48
  #26 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by vascodegama View Post
The F111s arriving at Boscombe had nothing to do with the raid; I seem to remember that was later in the year and raised a lot of erroneous speculation.
I remember the Cannon F-111s (and some EF-111s) were at Boscombe in September '86; I recall driving down to see them and stopping by Blackbushe on the way back to see if there were any interesting visitors as it was Farnborough week.
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Old 16th Apr 2021, 12:07
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Originally Posted by treadigraph View Post
I remember the Cannon F-111s (and some EF-111s) were at Boscombe in September '86; I recall driving down to see them and stopping by Blackbushe on the way back to see if there were any interesting visitors as it was Farnborough week.
During that era there was a deployment of F-111s from Canon and Mountain Home to Boscombe every three years to exercise and work up from a planned wartime forward operating base. I cannot be certain which years they came but '86 sounds feasible. It was very impressive to see every slot on the flightline occupied by a F-111! The HASs at Boscombe were actually built to support this operation and they were the first to be built on a UK MoD airfield (about 1978?). I remember that the USAF requested the promulgation of a 'HI TACAN' approach because that was their normal IFR join in the US and one was not published for Boscombe; such an approach for the main runway was duly constructed.
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Old 16th Apr 2021, 13:10
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Originally Posted by ex82watcher View Post
I was a civilian controller at Eastern Radar at RAF Watton,and was very surprised when I arrived at work that day to find that a significant number of the RAF controllers were wearing gun-belts and automatic pistols,and some of the airmen toting Sterling machine guns around the ops room.I don't remember seeing the F111s leaving Lakenheath,but wouldn't have been looking in that area.
SLRs. Don't ever recall being trained on SMGs. Can you imagine the Air Traffikkers at Eastern with fully automatic weapons? Scary!!
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Old 16th Apr 2021, 13:20
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Amazing what Google can sniff out - Coronet Comanche, 12 x Canon F-111Ds, and Coronet Papago, 6 x Mountain Home EF-111A, 27 Aug - 24 September '86.
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Old 16th Apr 2021, 15:13
  #30 (permalink)  
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Coningsby did not enhance its security but inside it was all happening. IIRC it was about midday Friday that we were warned for a deployment of 29 Sqn to Gibraltar. There were many deployment plans for the squadron but that wasn't one of them.
Throughout the afternoon as the pressure built up I started getting questions from the squadron. The area was strange, the Libyan Air Force Orbat was not known although they were known to have Blinder and Foxbat but their proficiency was unknown. They also had Mirage fighters which presented the most difficult question. How can we recognise them as Libyan?
I fired all the questions up the line at IMMEDIATE and waited in vain for answers. Eventually I rang Command Int who had also been scrabbling for answers. Their priority was briefing the CinC who would make the decision on deployment in conjunction with the Cabinet Office.
Gibraltar poses several problems as the airfield has no overshoot or understood and has contrary winds. Some training flights were laid on to practise. A friend of mine who had been off for 3 weeks was not happy and asked for more time. His sqn cdr, a Nav, virtually accused him of cowardice. On arrival he clipped the edge of the runway, as forecast, and was threatened with a court martial.
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Old 16th Apr 2021, 16:18
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Originally Posted by Doctor Cruces View Post
SLRs. Don't ever recall being trained on SMGs. Can you imagine the Air Traffikkers at Eastern with fully automatic weapons? Scary!!
Most definitely Sterling SMGs.I remember as I was walking down the steps on the Mil supervisors side, to go to the crew-room for a coffee,there was a corporal coming in the opposite direction with a Sterling slung over his shoulder! In the six years I was there,the only other time I saw someone 'armed',was with a pick handle,when going in for a night shift.Never,ever,saw an SLR in that time.
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Old 16th Apr 2021, 21:15
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Originally Posted by ex82watcher View Post
Most definitely Sterling SMGs.I remember as I was walking down the steps on the Mil supervisors side, to go to the crew-room for a coffee,there was a corporal coming in the opposite direction with a Sterling slung over his shoulder! In the six years I was there,the only other time I saw someone 'armed',was with a pick handle,when going in for a night shift.Never,ever,saw an SLR in that time.
Lets both defer to our fading memory then. Mine says the standard weapon of people then was the SLR with the SMG issued to MT drivers and the like who needed to carry in confined cabs etc. I was definitely issued with an SLR when we were armed guarding at Eastern when tensions were heightened but I don't remember being armed when Eldorado Canyon went off. Can't remember the occasion we were issued "guns" when I was there but must have been late 1990 to when the lights went out because I remember being supervisor of the guard so I must have been an NCO by then and I was on Det from Lyneham because of shortage of ERD trained bods. I remember the sadness caused when we had to trade our lovely SLRs in for those abominable little SA80s that replaced them.

There is of course the possibility that we are both correct just because I didn't see Sterlings doesn't mean there weren't any, I do remember the RAF coppers having them somtimes when they visited. I was at ERD from 1980-88 and again from 1990 til it closed.

Last edited by Doctor Cruces; 17th Apr 2021 at 07:53.
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Old 16th Apr 2021, 23:26
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Originally Posted by Doctor Cruces View Post
Lets both defer to our fading memory then. Mine says the standard weapon of people then was the SLR with the SMG issued to MT drivers and the like who needed to carry in confined cabs etc. I was definitely issued with an SLR when we were armed guarding at Eastern when tensions were heightened but I don't remember being armed when Eldorado Canyon went off. Can't remember the occasion we were issued "guns" when I was there but must have been late 1990 to when the lights went out because I remember being supervisor of the guard so I must have been an NCO by then and I was on Det from Lyneham because of shortage of ERD trained bods. I remember the sadness caused when we had to trade our lovely SLRs in for those abominable little SA80s that replacede them.

There is of course the possibility that we are both correct just because I didn't see Sterlings doesn't mean there weren't any, I do remember the RAF coppers having them somtimes when they visited. I was at ERD from 1980-88 and again from 1990 til it closed.
Official personal weapon type allocation for the RAF generally in the pre-SA80 era was:
SLR: airmen > cpl
SMG: sgt > sqn ldr (ground branch)
SLP Browning 9mm: wg cdr and above (ground branch)
SLP Walther 7.65mm: aircrew
There were separate policies for RAF Regt, RAF Police and MTDs.
In addition, subject to the agreement of OC Armament Flt / Sqn (that spare weapons existed) and OC RAF Regt Flt (to make ammunition available for qualification), sqn ldrs with a war role exclusively in a COC/SOF or deployed HQ could be issued with the SLP 9mm in lieu of SMG. For several years after aircrew changed over to the Walther from the Browning, there were plenty of "spare" Browning around at unit level.
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Old 17th Apr 2021, 06:38
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Originally Posted by RAFEngO74to09 View Post
Official personal weapon type allocation for the RAF generally in the pre-SA80 era was:
SLR: airmen > cpl
SMG: sgt > sqn ldr (ground branch)
SLP Browning 9mm: wg cdr and above (ground branch)
SLP Walther 7.65mm: aircrew
There were separate policies for RAF Regt, RAF Police and MTDs.
In addition, subject to the agreement of OC Armament Flt / Sqn (that spare weapons existed) and OC RAF Regt Flt (to make ammunition available for qualification), sqn ldrs with a war role exclusively in a COC/SOF or deployed HQ could be issued with the SLP 9mm in lieu of SMG. For several years after aircrew changed over to the Walther from the Browning, there were plenty of "spare" Browning around at unit level.
Agreed, but as you hint, RAF Police Cpls. and dog handlers etc. carried the Small Metal Gun in addition to their Brownings.
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Old 17th Apr 2021, 07:03
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Id been working that evening at Boscombe Down and walking home to Amesbury bus station I remember a lot of aircraft in the sky transiting overhead. It was enough to make you look up, the was no night flying at Boscombe. The following day in the news.........
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Old 17th Apr 2021, 08:20
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Cottesmore's supervisor said look Lakenheath must be on exercise as we watched them get airborne after winding the radar out, my mates had heard a rumour and when they got to Mildenhall they had never seen so many KC10's on the ground at once.
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Old 17th Apr 2021, 08:58
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Doctor Cruces,I was there from 1982 to March 1988,when E.R.(civil),closed down,so I expect we might recognize each other.I'm not going to draw swords over the weapon matter,but another possibility is that the NCO I saw with the SMG,may have been a SGT,in which case, that would accord with the weapon allocation described by RAFEng.I remember the fellow well,because though I don't know his name,he seemed to march all the time,whereas everybody else tended to just amble along.
Do you remember the photographs of Brezhnev and Gorbachev (or similar soviet types) which we 'borrowed' during a visit to the aggressor squadron at Alconbury,and substituted for the photo's of the queen and/or senior officers hanging in the entrance corridor ? though they weren't there long before being retrieved.
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Old 17th Apr 2021, 11:20
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Originally Posted by ex82watcher View Post
Doctor Cruces,I was there from 1982 to March 1988,when E.R.(civil),closed down,so I expect we might recognize each other.I'm not going to draw swords over the weapon matter,but another possibility is that the NCO I saw with the SMG,may have been a SGT,in which case, that would accord with the weapon allocation described by RAFEng.I remember the fellow well,because though I don't know his name,he seemed to march all the time,whereas everybody else tended to just amble along.
Do you remember the photographs of Brezhnev and Gorbachev (or similar soviet types) which we 'borrowed' during a visit to the aggressor squadron at Alconbury,and substituted for the photo's of the queen and/or senior officers hanging in the entrance corridor ? though they weren't there long before being retrieved.
Don't remember that, however if I was off shift and they didn't stay long.......
I well remember the Agressor controllers working from ERD when Neat was off air for major work for a couple of weeks or so. Very exciting working with them and interesting too. I remember one particular, very small Puerto Rican Captain called Charlie. HE used to get very excited when he was directing a fight and I think the Agressors could have heard him without a radio! He had the whole ops room in stitches one day when he reprted to one of the aircraft that he had "bogies on his nose". Not being British he was somewhat confused by all the laughter. Some good times, but one of my most dismal postings (only exceeded by ScATCC Mil) and I hated most of it until I came back later as an NCO and things had improved somewhat.
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Old 17th Apr 2021, 11:40
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Originally Posted by Doctor Cruces View Post
Don't remember that, however if I was off shift and they didn't stay long.......
I well remember the Agressor controllers working from ERD when Neat was off air for major work for a couple of weeks or so. Very exciting working with them and interesting too. I remember one particular, very small Puerto Rican Captain called Charlie. HE used to get very excited when he was directing a fight and I think the Agressors could have heard him without a radio! He had the whole ops room in stitches one day when he reprted to one of the aircraft that he had "bogies on his nose". Not being British he was somewhat confused by all the laughter. Some good times, but my most dismal posting and I hated most of it until I came back later as an NCO and things had improved somewhat.
Yes,I remember the Aggressor controllers,and the Puerto Rican,though I didn't know his name,I don't know if they were pilots or fighter controllers,but they always wore flying suits.I can still hear the shouts of "knock it off,Knock it off" coming from consoles 7A/B.
I can understand why you thought ER a dismal posting,I always thought of Watton as a one-horse town...without the horse.For myself,it was the best time of my life !
There was another small incident,that you may remember if you were on watch,when in the evening, when the entrance barrier wasn't manned,and the front door had to be unlocked by one of you airmen from the ops room,when one of our assistants,having made the request,wasn't prepared to wait,and snatched the keys from the desk,and let himself out.ISTR that caused some ripples.
The USAF liason officer at that time was Suzanne Heckinger,I think,having replaced Bill Shed.Her husband,John was an F111 driver at Lakenheath.Don't know if he was on the raid.

Last edited by ex82watcher; 17th Apr 2021 at 13:46.
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Old 17th Apr 2021, 13:07
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From my perspective as a complete and utter civilian ... It was a quite extraordinary weekend and Monday evening.

Over the weekend RAF Fairford had filled-up with lots of KC10s and extra KC135s, and a load more arrived at Mildenhall too, so we made the very long journey between the two bases. On the Sunday morning I was with some friends, one of whom worked at LATC, and he mentioned another load of KC10s and KC135s arriving at Mildenhall that day. That afternoon we made the long drive up to Mildenhall (again) to see them.

On Monday, back at work, I was chatting with a friend about all these going-on, and he convinced me that we should go back up to Mildenhall that evening (again!) so that he could see them all. A quick stop at his house, and we picked-up his father-in-law who came along just for the drive.
We got quite close the Mildenhall by about 6.30pm and we saw two KC10s depart. When we got to the end of the runway there was a very long line of KC10s and KC135s waiting to depart. I remember seeing a vehicle pull-up in front of a KC10, somebody got out and waved a bag/satchel; the side door of the KC10 opened, a very long rope was lowered and attached to the bag, and the bag was lifted up into the aircraft. The tankers started to depart, and we became aware of the F111s departing from Lakenheath nearby - it seemed to be a never-ending stream.
We just assumed it was some sort of exercise, and never connected the tankers and the F111s. However, my mate was happy, and F-I-L was over the moon!

We drove back home after the excitement had died down, and I got home at about 10.30pm. I was about to go to bed at about 11.30 when my pager went-off. I was on-call for work, but it was quite rare to be called. I 'phone the office, and I was told that so-and-so system had failed. I said that I'd come in and fix it. I drove all the way to work listening to the radio; nothing was mentioned on the midnight news. I got to work just before 00.30 and by the time I'd got into the office it was just after 00.30. I was most surprised to see somebody else in the office, and he told me that they'd just announced the raid at 00.30. At that point all the bits of the jigsaw fell into place!
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