Panavia Tornado F.3, ZG797/D ‘Desperation’, RAF No.29 Squadron, 1435 Flight, RAF Mount Pleasant, Defence of the Falkland Islands
The successful liberation of the Falkland Islands from invading Argentine forces in June 1982 was a triumph of logistics, determination and the sheer bravery of Britain’s military personnel. It did, however, clearly illustrate the vulnerability of this British Overseas Territory to attack and a permanent defensive presence would be required in the future. Central to this plan would be the protection of the airspace above the Islands and the exclusion zone beyond, but in the months following the end of the conflict, this air defence task would be the responsibility of the available Harrier GR.3 ground attack aircraft of the Royal Air Force. The unsuitable runway at Port Stanley would require significant upgrade before any dedicated RAF air defence fighters could be stationed there, but as the work neared completion, the McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR2s of No.29 Squadron prepared to embark on their transit to the South Atlantic. Arriving in October 1982, the Islands now had a dedicated air defence force. After ten years of steadfast service, the Phantoms were replaced by Britain’s latest air superiority fighter the Panavia Tornado F.3 in 1992, which in turn went on to defend the Falkland Islanders for the next seventeen years.
The long association between the Falkland Islands and 1435 Flight began on 1st November 1988, when No.23 Squadron began to re-equip with the new Tornado F.3. With the Falklands based detachment now reduced to just four Phantom FGR.2s, the flight drew on its heritage during the WWII siege of Malta and the defiant defence mounted by a small number of Gloster Sea Gladiators, which were given the names ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’. The fourth Phantom which acted as a reserve aircraft was given the name ‘Desperation’. With the Phantoms eventually giving way to the Panavia Tornado in July 1992, the flight continued this proud tradition, with the Maltese cross and the Falklands Islands crest displayed prominently on many of their aircraft. Over the next seventeen years, around twenty-nine different Tornado F.3 airframes made the long journey to serve in the South Atlantic, some on more than one occasion. They defended the Falkland Islands with distinction and the Tornado F.3s of 1435 Flight RAF Mount Pleasant remain as some of the most interesting post war British military aircraft. ZG797/D Desperation was one of the last Tornado F3s to serve with 1435 Flight and was present when the unit handed over to the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4.