Twelve RAF Jaguars made a very significant contribution to Gulf War one (UK Op Ganby, US Op Desert Storm) and were some of the first RAF combat assets deployed to the region. Between them, the 12 aircraft flew 612 combat sorties, achieving an astonishingly high sortie rate and level of availability. Twenty eight French Air Force Jaguars also participated (Op Daguet), with a similar level of operational success.

Friends & Allies - Part 1C

 Fixed wing aircraft of the Royal Air Force (1980-present)

   (many with some sort of naval connection!):

SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1A, RAF JAGDET, Muharraq, Bahrain, Operation Granby, 1991

The Revell Jaguar is a joint Revell/Italeri mould that has also appeared in Tamiya boxes in the Far East. It assembles without drama and is acceptably accurate. Decals in the Revell issue include an RAF Gulf War aircraft (including semi-naked "Debbie" noseart) and an RAF Germany aircraft of 2(AC) Sqn at RAF Laarbruch. However, for various reasons I decided to use Modeldecal markings for XX733 "Biggles" instead, with rather less inspiring but more politically correct nose picture of a pink Spitfire

Since its premature departure from RAF service during the savage 2007 defence cuts, the Jaguar has become a somewhat forgotten aircraft. Developed in the late 1960s as a joint Anglo-French aircraft to be built by the Société Européenne de Production de l'Avion d'École de Combat et d'Appui Tactique (SEPECAT), a joint venture between the British Aircraft Corporation and Breguet, it remains in service with the Indian Air Force and Royal Air Force of Oman.

 In its final RAF form, the RAF Jaguar GR.3, with TERPROM navigation and precision guided weapons, was a remarkably capable aircraft.

Friends & Allies Index RAF 1918-45 RAF 1945-80 US Aircraft NATO Other Nations French Aircraft Civil Aviation

Hawker Siddeley HS 125 Dominie T.1, 55(R) Sqn, RAF, Cranwell 2004.

The RAF adopted an early variant of the hugely successful HS 125 light passenger jet as a radar and navigation trainer. Originally a DeHavilland design, the Dominie is now approaching the end of its service life, but several aircraft were updated in 2003 to add Ground Mapping Radar (GMR) and modern avionics.

During the Cold War, RAF Dominies were allocated a war role of coastal maritime reconnaissance, working with RN Offshore Patrol Vessels to escort coastal convoys around the UK. Later and larger variants of the HS125 are also used by the RAF as VIP transport aircraft.

This is the Airfix kit in its current (2008) issue, with a superb set of decals for an all black Dominie of 55(R) Sqn in 2004 and an earlier red and white aircraft. The kit builds nicely although some of the detail is rather crude by current standards. Unfortunately the cabin window configuration has changed recently and the kit represents the earlier layout. The wing fences are also too far inboard, but otherwise this is a really nice little kit. Link to Build Page

BAC Lightning F.3 - 11 Sqn, RAF Binbrook, 1984.

Another example of the old Airfix kit, this time using the changed mould to represent the F.3 version with its larger tail fin, Red Top armament and no gun ports.   At some point between the kit above and this one, it went through a phase of being a snap-together easy build kit, with large location pins and snap-in canopy.  These changes don’t entirely help with buildability, but at least the kit is cheap!  

The F.3 variant of the lightning deleted the gun ports and introduced the more capable Red Top missile along with the Stage 3 enlarged and squared-off fin.  F.3s remained in service until the end of the Lightning’s career in 1987 although their short-range (they retained the small belly tank) limited their usability. At the very end they sported a wide range of markings, from grey-green camouflage to various combinations of grey.   


British Aerospace Harrier GR.3 - 1417 Flight, Royal Air Force Belize, 1987.

Fujimi's Harrier kits are reasonably accurate, but not easy builds. This one represents an aircraft of 1417 Flt, RAF Belize in the mid 1980s. Whilst I was serving in HMS LIVERPOOL, during our 1987 "West Indies Guardship" deployment (its a dirty job, but someone has to do it!), we exercised with 1417 Flt off the coast of Belize, providing our splash target for them to practice attacking fast moving sea-borne targets with Aden Guns and Rockets. Our activities attracted much interest from heavily armed (and not altogether friendly) Honduran and Guatemalan gunboats, which added a little spice to the proceedings.

The GR.3, easily recognised by its extended nose fairing to house the laser target marker and range finder, was the RAF's second Harrier variant, with improved avionics and uprated engines. Harriers were deployed to Belize from 1981 to 1993, in response to potential threats from Guatemala and Honduras. The aircraft were ideally suited to the rough deployed conditions, if occasionally limited by the temperature.

BAe Harrier GR5 - 224 OCU RAF Wittering/Cottesmore 1989.

Italeri's GR.5 and GR.7 kits are crude and not very accurate, although they do look fairly convincing when built.

This is the earliest issue (AV-8B prototype) with various (substantial) putty modifications to the nose & Modeldecal markings to convert it into a GR.5. More recently, this kit has been issued by Revell with the required modificaitons to make it as a GR.5 from the box.

The GR.5 was the RAF's first version of the second generation Harrier II, built jointly as the AV-8B with McDonnell Douglas (later Boeing). With longer range, greater weapon load and advanced avionics, it was, in effect, an entirely new type. The stubby GR.5 nose was designed to carry a Ferranti line scanning Infra Red system, but this was cancelled before entering service.

BAE SYSTEMS Harrier GR.7 - 4 Sqn RAF, embarked in HMS ILLUSTRIOUS 2001.

Italeri also issued a further revised version of the kit as a GR.7, with some nice (although not entirely accurate) decals and weapons. Unfortunately these do not include the Paveway laser guided bombs worn by this model, which come from a separate Italeri weapons set.

The GR.7 introduced full night operating and precision weapon capability to the RAF's Harrier Fleet as well as a further uprated engine. Existing GR.5s were converted to the new standard. Although designed to operate at low level in the European Theatre, the GR.7 now operates at medium level and has been the backbone of RAF combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since the 1990s, proving to be a reliable and effective weapons platform. Since the creation of Joint Force Harrier, Fleet Air Arm pilots have also flown former RAF GR.7s, with the Naval Strike Wing sharing Afghanistan duties with the RAF.

The joint RN/RAF Harrier fleet is now being further improved as the GR.7A and GR.9, with yet further engine and weapons system improvements:

British Aerospace Harrier GR.1 - 1 Sqn, RAF Wittering, December 1970..

ESCI’s first generation Harrier kits are currently the best available in 1/72, accurate, well detailed and thoughtfully engineered.  Whilst the Sea Harrier and GR3 have been re-issued by Italeri (and Airfix) the AV8a variant has not although there are plenty to be had on the 2nd hand market.

Some simple changes and new decals are all that is needed to turn it into a representation of one of the RAF’s first Harriers.

The first operational variant of the Harrier family was the GR.1 and up-powered GR.1A. Original performance from this radical aircraft was marginal, requiring that only the most skilled RAF pilots flew the Harrier.

Link to Harrier GR.9 operated by the Fleet Air Arm

Link to my Harrier pages

Panavia Tornado F.3 - 111 Sqn "Tremblers" Royal Air Force, RAF Leuchars 2010.

Other than the expensive Hasegawa kits, the interceptor variant of the Tornado is not well provided for in 1/72.  This is the Airfix kit, which is rather crude and lacking on detail, but scrubs up tolerably well. This issue came as a gift set aimed at less experienced modellers, with good looking, but simplified, decals for the retirement scheme worn by 111 Sqn at RAF Leuchars in 2010.  To complete the build I added some ex-Matchbox decals for the many stencils around the fuselage and dotted lines on the upper surfaces.

The F.3 Tornado replaced the Phantom and Lightning in RAF service.  Entering service in 1987 it was finally withdrawn in 2011, after a remarkably long and successful period providing air defence of the UK.  The Air Defence Variant of the Tornado was designed specifically for RAF long range interceptor missions over the North Sea and Atlantic.  

With its Foxhunter radar, JTIDS data link and armed with semi-active homing Skyflash (and latterly AMRAAM and ASRAAM missiles) it was well suited to this particular role (and in a similar role over the vast Saudi desert) but its inability to adapt to more offensive fighter and swing roles meant that it saw no combat service, despite regular operational deployments to the Gulf.  Toward the end of its service, several aircraft were converted to undertake Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) roles carrying the ALARM anti-radar missile.

As well as the RAF and Royal Saudi Air Force, Tornado F.3s saw brief service with the Italian Air Force as a stop-gap solution to Typhoon project delays . All 3 air forces have now replaced the Tornado with the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Main Index


Panavia Tornado GR.4 - IX(B) Sqn Royal Air Force, RAF Marham 2004.

This is the old Airfix GR.1 kit, updated with a number of aftermarket and “spares box” changes to turn it into an updated GR.4.  Decals from Airfix’s own GR.4 issue complete the transformation.  Link to build page

During the 1990-91 Gulf War, it became obvious that low level tactics over well defended targets were excessively risky and Tornados switched to a medium level role, carrying smart laser and GPS guided weapons a swell as long range stand-off Cruise missiles in the form of the MBDA Storm Shadow and KEPD 350 Taurus.  

Drawing on the lessons of the first Gulf War and changing tactics, in 1994 the RAF commissioned a number of updates to its Tornado GR.1 fleet, bringing all aircraft to a common GR.4 fleet standard that incuded the ability to use more modern smart weapons Paveway IV & Brmistone), a new Forward looking Infra Red (FLIR) system (replacing the port 27mm Mauser cannon), secure communications, GPS, a tactical datalink and advanced cockpit avionics. Saudi, German and Italian Tornados have all seen similar updates.  

The final flight of an RAF Tornado took place in April 2019, ending 39 years of front-line service for this remarkable aircraft.

#jaguar #Dominie #Lightningf3 #Tornadogr1 #Hawk200 #Harriergr1 #Harriergr3 #Harriergr5 #Harriergr7 #Tornadof3 #GR4 #Hawkarrows #228

McDonnell-Douglas F-4M Phantom II FGR.2, 228 OCU (64 Sqn), RAF Leuchars 1987.

This is the marvellous Fujimi Phantom FGR.2, with Modeldecal markings. And Flightpath  ladders

Link to build page                                                         Link to Phantoms Pages

The Phantom was originally procured by the RAF as a ground attack and reconnaissance platform following the failure of the P.1154, F-111K and TSR.2 projects.  Based on a cut down version of the RN’s FG.1, but with additional ground attack systems, it was eventually re-purposed as an air defence fighter once Jaguars were widely available for use in Germany. 228 OCU was tasked with training Phantom pilots, originally out of RAF Conningsby.  As Air Defence became the primary Phantom role, they were redeployed to RAF Leuchars in Fife, Scotland, as the main UK Air Defence base.  228 retained their FGR.2 variants, although this was less well suited to the ex-RN FG.1 versions used by the two operational squadrons at Leuchars, 43 Sqn and 111 Sqn who both operated the FG.1.


McDonnell-Douglas F-4J (UK) Phantom II F.3, 74 (Tiger) Sqn, RAF Wattisham 1988.

This is the Italeri Phantom F-4S, with Kits-World markings and some small modifications

Link to build page                                                        Link to Phantoms Pages

In 1984 the UK purchased 15 ex-US Navy F-4J Phantoms to backfill the squadron deployed to defend the Falkland Islands and to act as a stop-gap until Tornado F.2 / F.3 problems could be resolved.  The aircraft were refurbished to near F-4S standard and this, along with their J79 engines and stronger airframes made them some of the most capable Phantoms used by the RAF.  They remained in service until early 1991.


Short Tucano T.1, No.1 Flying Training School, RAF Linton-on-Ouse 2007.

This is the Airfix Tucano kit in its early 2000s issue    Link to build page                   

The Short Tucano was a license built variant of the Embraer Tucano with a more powerful engine and other modifications for UK use.  It entered service in 1988 and continued to train RAF and RN aviators until late 2019.

BAE Systems Hawk Mk.120D (T.2) Demonstrator, Warton, Lancashire 2008.

Airfix released this nice modern kit in about 2009. Although clearly related to their newer T.1 kit, it has a new fuselage and wings. Decals in this issue include this complex and difficult to apply demonstrator scheme; the current (2020) issue has equally attractive but much simpler Canadian, RAF and Australian markings. Link to build page


First taking to the air in 1974, the HS.1182 Hawk has proved to be one of the most successful British aircraft of all time, remaining in production for over 46 years with more than a thousand built, including the single seat Hawk 200 fighter.  It was selected in 1981 as the US Navy’s carrier landing trainer, using a modified carrier capable variant built by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing), but is perhaps best known to the public as the mount of the famous RAF Red Arrows display team.

BAE Systems have continued to develop the Hawk design, with its most recent version, the Hawk 120 series, featuring an elongated nose, updated fuselage centre section and new wings,as well as other aerodynamic and avionics improvements. In this form it is sold as a Lead In Fighter trainer (LIFT) and Advanced Jet Trainer, with the RAF and RN now introducing the Mk.128 Hawk T.2 to replace older Hawk T.1s.  

To ease transition to more capable jet aircraft, the current Hawk has an updated glass cockpit that emulates the look and feel of operational fighters. For the Indian Air Force and Navy, Mk.132 Hawks are built locally by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), whilst the Royal Saudi Air Force also builds the Mk.165 variant locally.

British Aerospace Hawk T.1A, 151 (Fighter) Sqn, RAF Chivenor, Devon 1983.

This is also the newer Airfix T.1 kit which is an easy build.  Link to build page

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the RAF allocated a wartime air defence role to a number of armed Hawk trainers. These would operate with Tornados, using their agility and low observability for close in dogfighting, as well as point defence of key sites.   Aircraft operated in both wrap-around camouflage, such as this one, and light air-defence grey schemes.

British Aerospace Hawk T.1, The Red Arrows,  Royal Air Force, RAF Scampton 2018.

Airfix released this nicely formed modern kit in about 2015, replacing their existing Hawk kit, which wasn’t too bad.  This is the gift set issue, which comes with cement, brush and some slightly unusable acrylic paint.  The kit and its decals are very nice and an easy build.  Painting the airframe and applying the decals need some skill though. Link to build page

First taking to the air in 1974, the HS.1182 Hawk has proved to be one of the most successful British aircraft of all time, remaining in production for over 44 years with more than a thousand built.

Although originally designed as a twin seat trainer, it has seen considerable export success in both double and single seat forms as a fighter and ground attack aircraft with over 18 foreign operators using the Hawk at some time. The US Navy also uses the carrier capable Goshawk variant, with tail hook and strengthened undercarriage for advanced carrier landing training of new USN and USMC pilots.

Operationally, both Malaysian and Zimbabwean Hawks have both seen air to ground combat against insurgent forces.  During the mid-1980s, the UK deployed Sidewinder and Aden Gun armed T.1A Hawk Squadrons in war roles as the local area defence layer, in conjunction with the longer range radar equipped Tornado F.3.  

Panavia Tornado GR1 - 617 Sqn "Dambusters" Royal Air Force, RAF Lossiemouth 1988.

An older build. The ESCI Tornado wasn't bad in its day although it is now totally eclipsed by Revell's newest mould. This is out the box; like most GR Tornado kits (including Hasegawa's), the nose profile isn't quite right !

The Tornado GR1, GR1A, GR4 and F3 have been the backbone of the RAF since the mid 1980s. Designed as a low level penetrator, the GR4 now performs a high level precision bombing role. F3s are now being replaced by Typhoon, with the first Conningsby based squadron having assumed Southern QRA duties in Jul 07.

A decision on replacing the GR4 will be needed soon; obvious candidates include the F-35 and Typhoon, although neither really performs the same role. In addition, with the RAF now operating Reaper/Predator TUAVs over Afghanistan, an unmanned option for Tornado replacement is a very real prospect.

Lossiemouth's Tornado GR.1s were tasked with Maritime attack operations, carrying the BAe Sea Eagle missile in support of the Royal Navy.

BAe Hawk 200 - Demonstrator Aircraft 1987.

Matchbox's Hawk 200 is the only 1/72 kit of this variant available. I built this some years ago, so it is not quite to current kit build standards. Might update it some day to have the wing tip sidewinder stations of the production aircraft.

"The last all-British Fighter?" Sold to a number of nations in the Far East and Africa, the 200 series shares the Hawk trainer's agility and ease of operation/maintenance. More recently, it has been promoted along with the advanced Hawk 100 series as a Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) for nations acquiring more modern aircraft such as the SAAB Gripen.

#Hawkscot #Sentry

Boeing E-3D Sentry - 8 Sqn RAF Waddington - 100th Anniversary markings 2015.

The Heller E-3 kit comes in a variety of issues, including USAF, NATO & the French Air Force.  It was also issued by Airfix with UK Decals and extra parts for the E-3D.  The kit is a relatively straightforward build, but its finished size does pose some problems !   

This one has excellent after-market markings from Combat Decals (link to build page).

The E-3 Sentry first entered USAF service in 1977. Based on the Boeing  B-707 airliner, it is a large aircraft, able to carry extensive radar, ESM and C3 equipment for operation by its crew of up to 30.  British and French Air Force Sentries were purchased in the late 1980s, and entered service in 1991.

For the RAF, the E-3D replaced the failed Nimrod AEW project.  By purchasing a joint batch (of 7) with France (5), the RAF obtained the aircraft at an exceptional price.  Modern CFM-56 engines were fitted, increasing loiter time and range through much reduced fuel consumption.

RAF aircraft operate out of Waddington and contribute to the NATO E-3 force, alongside French AF and NATO owned assets.  They can remain airborne for up to 11 hours with a range of 5,750 miles.  A single airborne E-3 can provide an accurate air picture of much of Western Europe.


Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II - 617 Sqn RAF Marham / HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH 2021.

The Airfix F-35B kit is a little simplified, but still builds into a fine representation. (link to build page).

The F-35B entered RAF service in 2017, with Full Operating Capability (FOC) planned for 2025.  Operated by the UK within a joint Royal Navy / Royal Air Force structure.  617 Squadron, the famous  RAF “Dambusters” is the first (and so far only) operational front line squadron, serving ashore at RAF Marham and also at sea onboard the Royal Navy’s two Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.  

17 Sqn, based at Edwards AF Base in the USA are the UK’s operational test and evaluation squadron, taking deliver of new F-35Bs as they become available, whilst 207 Sqn RAF stood up in 2019 at RAF Marham as the joint RN/RAF Operational Conversion Unit (OCU).  809 Naval Air Squadron is expected to become the first Fleet Air Arm squadron (but still dual manned), once sufficient aircraft and pilots are available.

During 2021, the aircraft of 617 Sqn embarked in HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH for the Carrier Strike Group 21 global deployment.  Although somewhat curtailed by the COVID pandemic, the ship and its aircraft successfully demonstrated the reach of the UK’s Carrier Strike capability around the world, including participation in combat operations against IS over Syria and live interceptions of Russian aircraft that were a potential threat to the NATO Carrier force.


Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA.1 - 120/201 Sqn RAF Lossiemouth 2024.

The BPK kit is expensive and not an easy build, but results in a very pleasing replica of this important modern aircraft. (link to build page).

The Boeing P-8A Poseidon is rapidly emerging as the primary western long range Maritime Patrol Aircraft for the 2020s.  Designed originally for the US Navy as a replacement for the long serving P-3 Orion, it now serves with the US, India, Australian , United Kingdom, Norway and New Zealand, with orders also placed for South Korea, Germany and Canada.  Likely future orders include Brazil, Denmark, Italy, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  

The airframe is a strengthened development of Boeing’s civilian 737-800 fitted with stronger wings from the 737-900 and raked wingtips from the 767-400ER.  A range of maritime sensors, multi mission radars, extensive communications and a small weapons bay for anti-submarine torpedoes or SAR stores.   Harpoon ASuW missiles  (and others) can be carried on 4 wing pylons , whilst  internal rotary sonobuoy launchers  can launch passive or active buoys  to detect and track submarine targets. The Poseidon can operate over a combat range of 1,400 miles, with 4 hours loiter time on station.  In Flight Refuelling can extend this for a significant period longer.

The Royal Air Force received the first of 9 Poseidon MRA.1 aircraft in 2019, with the last delivery in 2022.  The aircraft operate out of RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and are manned by crews from 120 Sqn and 201 Sqn, supported by 42 Sqn as their OCU.    In 2024 it was announced that RAF aircraft would be adapted to allow them to carry the advanced British Sting Ray Mod 1 torpedo, which is far more capable than the US Mk.54.  However, RAF aircraft still lack wing pylons and are (as yet) unable to carry any other armament.