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BAC Strikemaster FGA.1 - No.208 Squadron, RAF Middle East Command, 1966

In the so-called 'Aden Protectorate' (today part of Yemen) during the early 1960's various disparate anti-British guerrilla groups slowly formed into two larger organisations consisting of the Egyptian-supported National Liberation Front and the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen. Attacks against the British began at a relatively low level but suddenly escalated on December 14th, 1963 with an National Liberation Front grenade attack at Khormaksar Airport that killed two people and injured another fifty including the British High Commissioner. Later on the same day a state of emergency was declared in Aden. Attacks against British forces by the National Liberation Front and the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen continued and relied mainly on grenade attacks largely focused on killing off-duty British officers and policemen. In 1964 the British 24th Infantry Brigade arrived to conduct land operations and the RAF station at Khormaksar was quickly expanded, eventually operating nine squadrons including the Hawker Hunter fighter-bombers of No.208 Squadron who had been previously based at RAF Muharraq in Bahrain.

Air strikes by fighter-bombers against the mobile guerilla forces were often ineffective and Army commanders considered that with complete air superiority then perhaps a slower aircraft with an observer assisting the pilot might be a more accurate combination in supporting British ground forces and attacking the rebels. BAC had already been proposing an armed version of the Jet Provost to the RAF for weapons training without success but tried again towards the end of 1964 and were rewarded with a production contract for 50 armed Jet Provost trainers in January 1965. With the Jet Provost T.5 still on the BAC production line and BAC already developing the private venture BAC 167 Strikemaster then the new aircraft was developed very quickly. Essentially an armed version of the Jet Provost T.5, the Strikemaster FGA.1 featured an uprated Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet engine, four underwing hardpoints, two machine guns under the intakes and new communication and navigation gear.

Entering service in February 1966 with No.208 squadron at RAF Khormaksar the Strikemaster force was expanded when No.8 Squadron re-equipped with the type in April 1966. Both units flew armed reconnaissance sorties in the Radfan and Dhala areas a difficult task as the rugged terrain aided concealment and camouflage. The Hunter FR.10's of No. 1417 Flight and the Shackleton MR.3's of No.37 Squadron helped with pre-strike and post-strike photographs and during the Autumn of 1966 the rebel forces in the Radfan area increasingly used caves to store arms and ammunition. These difficult targets were successfuly attacked by both the Strikemaster ground-attack squadrons often under FAC control. However, repeated guerrilla attacks against British forces by the National Liberation Front continued (and subsequently increased after the 1967 Six-Day war) causing the British to leave Aden by the end of November 1967. Following the British departure, the National Liberation Front managed to seize power and establish the People's Republic of South Yemen. The Radfan Strikefighter wing returned to the UK to form a new Tactical Weapons Unit at RAF Brawdy operating the type until 1991.

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Skin Credit: allenjb42

Edited by Spinners
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