Franklin reports from RAF Leeming on 11 June as the squadron held
its last reunion before disbanding and eventually reforming as a Typhoon
XI(F) Squadron will be down-declared as a Tornado F3 Squadron on 31 October 2005, eighteen months earlier than was previously planned. However, the good news is that the squadron will reform as the second Typhoon Squadron at RAF Coningsby in 2007. This will leave just three front-line Tornado F3 squadrons in the immediate future, and leaves a question mark over the RAF's recently acquired SEAD capability.
In early 2003, in the light of potential operations in Iraq, XI(F) Squadron undertook the additional role of SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defence) using ALARM (Air Launched Anti-Radiation Missile). In a little under one month the Squadron converted eleven aircraft and fourteen crews to the new role and was declared operational on 1 March 2003. Retaining its full air-to-air weapon fit, the renamed Tornado EF3 is unique to XI(F) Squadron and is capable of both locating and destroying enemy SAM systems whilst fulfilling key fighter duties.
Squadron Leader Al Cochrane, OC Weapons on XI(Fighter) Squadron in late 2003 remarked that "Fighter pilots will have to think twice before intercepting a package of aircraft containing the ASRAAM armed EF3. The air-to-air skills of the fighter pilot provide an excellent foundation on which to create a competent swing-role Tornado operator."
Whether this capability will be transferred to the remaining squadrons is yet to be confirmed, but before disbandment the personnel of XI(F) Squadron were determined to put on a show for the latest reunion. Its future mount, the Typhoon, was present in the static park together with some of its ancestors, notably the Hurricane and Lightning. Best of all though was a stirring nine-ship flypast, something of which we see all to little of in these cash-strapped times. Leading the flypast was the squadron's flagship, the black-tailed ZE887. Completing the Tornado theme was the display aircraft from 56(R) Squadron, piloted by Flt Lts Richard 'Dicko' Moyes and Gareth 'Gaz' Littlechild.