Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
Ian Hall Grub Street, London, 2016
Reviewed by Sqn Ldr Nick Goodwyn RAF (Ret’d)
Tornado Boys is the author’s second contribution to the series, his first being Jaguar Boys. Ian Hall has a rich background of seven fighter-bomber tours - flying five different types and retiring as a Group Captain after having commanded 31 Sqn flying the Tornado GR1 from RAF Bruggen. The book is a collation of 20 ‘thrilling tales from the men and women who have operated this indomitable modern-day bomber’ including both the views of the aircrew and others whose ground role was so essential to its operational success such as a SENGO (Senior Engineering Officer) and an Army GLO (Ground Liaison Officer on secondment).
As the author states, since the Tornado GR4 continues in service for the present on operations against Daesh, the book is too early to be a full-career history ‘…but it is easy to see why the ‘Fin’ attracts such respect from its operators’, who ‘continue to regards it with such pride and affection. It has already undoubtedly proved to be one of the great strike/attack aircraft-and indeed reconnaissance and close air support aircraft-of modern times’.
The chapters chronicle a fascinating story of a fighter born out of the post TSR2 debacle to serve as an essential part and spearhead of the UK’s nuclear deterrent (thankfully never proven but always tested by NATO through TACEVALs), and yet has been at the core of a deployed and expeditionary air force since 1990 in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia/Kosovo (whilst also operating from its home in RAF Germany), Libya and now Iraq/Syria. A true warbird that has excelled in roles beyond those envisaged in its initial concept, and which is also testament to the commitment and bravery of those men and women who have served on it in continuous operations for over 25 years. The Tornado is symbolic of such a significant portion of the history of the RAF as it nears its centenary year in 2018.
The stories themselves are entertaining, well written, honest, amusing in parts, reflective in others and all illustrate the passion and enthusiasm of all those who flew, fought, serviced and supported the aircraft. In giving personal anecdotes and observations, the book really brings to life what it is like to serve on front-line fast-jet units and on operations. Ian Hall has managed to encourage and cajole a diverse collection of contributors of who all bar one (at present) achieved either executive, senior leadership or Air Rank. Although in places, this is reflected in their narrative - where some frustrations and politics become apparent, as well as achievement and inspirational leadership. One suspects that there might be room for more stories from the ‘Boys’ if there were to be a second volume.
Overall, ‘Tornado Boys’ is a hard-to-put-down excellent read.