The Cold War role of the Squadron ended abruptly in August 1990 with Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. With the response of Her Majesty’s Government on the 5th of August to send an expeditionary force to protect Saudi Arabia from any further aggression by Iraq, the Coltishall Wing of Jaguars was ordered to deploy a force to the Gulf area as part of Operation Grandby. The initial deployment of Jaguars to Thumrait, Oman was ordered on 8 August 1990.
The Squadron was chosen to be the leading element and an urgent push was applied to prepare for a war level deployment.12 aircraft for this initial push, plus several spares, had to be prepared to a basic standard to allow them to operate in the hot, humid and generally hostile climate of the Arabian Peninsula. The most obvious of these initial enhancements was the pink camouflage, applied to most aircraft in a single night’s work by a scratch team of painters. The well-rehearsed deployment role of the Jaguar Squadrons at Coltishall was a great help to the task. Three days later on Saturday 11 August, No 6 (Composite) squadron, reinforced by support from other units at Coltishall and under the command of Wing Commander Jerome Connolly departed the UK. Operational work up commenced at Thumrait immediately on arrival with ultra low desert flying training and work up towards offensive operations.
Work up included NBC training for both the aircrew and the ground crew, which would have been a hard effort back in the UK, but was made much more uncomfortable by the 45 degree heat of the Omani Summer. Accommodation was just as spartan as the other facilities. Back at home, Coltishall had embarked on a massive modification programme to bring on to line aircraft that were comparable with the Jaguar International variant, with over-wing pylons for Sidewinder missiles, the ability to use additional weapons that were not standard to the Jaguars inventory (the CBU87 cluster bomb and CRV 7 rocket launchers being two notable weapons). Other modifications included additional radios, improved air conditioning and defensive aids.
The desert workup continued apace, and with the defiance of Saddam Hussein to UN pressures to withdraw, operations of an offensive nature began to loom. Oman was not the most suitable place for Jaguar operations, due to its geographic location, so in the October, the Squadron relocated to Muharraq, Bahrain.
The Jaguars were soon involved heavily in action, although not in the way they had trained for. The American Air Commanders believed that because of the force package the Jaguars would be flying with, medium level operation
s would be the order of the day. On the 18th of January, operations centred on vehicles, barracks and a storage complex in the Kuwait area. The next day’s tasking led to attacks on Surface-to-Air (SAM) missile sites and artillery targets. Some aircraft suffered fragmentation damage, but returned safely. The majority of these missions involved the Jaguar force being part of a multi force package with other air forces and regular in flight refuelling contacts with RAF tankers. This fairly complex procedure for the aircraft was increased in its difficulty with the occasional night time refuelling that was carried out in twilight or night conditions with the requirement for the tankers or the receiving aircraft not to communicate by radio.
The 28th of February brought a cease-fire with the Iraqis having been driven out of Kuwait. The crews at this time were placed on 2 hours readiness. The performance of the Jaguar force in the Gulf conflict showed what a remarkable and very capable aircraft it was within the limits of its original design. Some statistics set this achievement in perspective; the 12 aircraft dropped nearly 1,200 bombs of various sorts, fired over 600 CRV7 rockets and 9,500 rounds of 30mm ammunition. Of this list of ordnance, all the rockets and over half the bombs were weapons that, at the start of August 1990, had not been cleared for delivery from Jaguar. In a total of 617 sorties, serviceability was of the order of 98% and minor battle damage occurred to only 5 aircraft. With the approach of the month of Ramadan and the end of the Middle Eastern winter, it was not long before the Jaguar force and its complement of 6 Squadron personnel were returning to Coltishall, the aircraft flying home towards the middle of March. This, however was not going to prove to be the last Out Of Area operation and the Squadron was going to find itself operating over places that in the past were its former stomping grounds.