A British pilot was awarded a gallantry medal yesterday for a daring mission in which he flew a fighter jet for nine hours, destroying four ISIS truck bombs.
Flight Lieutenant Thomas Hansford, on his first mission as lead pilot, did all of this while navigating through huge thunderstorms in his Typhoon when his targets were more than a mile away from each other.
In September last year, Lt Hansford and another pilot had been patrolling the skies over Hawijah in Syria for five hours as back-up to the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Flight Lieutenant Thomas Hansford Royal Air Force Typhoon pilot received the coveted award
It was at this point they realised the four ISIS trucks acting as booby trapped obstacles on the road into Hawijah, in eastern Syria not far from the Iraq border.
Lt Hansford used four Paveway IV guided bombs, navigated with precision to obliterate the targets.
It was after a then Operation Shader record nine hours he returned to base in RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus.
Flt Lt Hansford, of 1 Fighter Squadron, the oldest in the RAF, said yesterday: ‘I feel incredibly proud to have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, yet lucky to be in this position when I am confident that any other pilot on the squadron or Typhoon Force would have achieved equal success if tasked with the same mission.
‘It still feels surreal to be receiving such a prestigious award.
‘None of the Typhoon operations against Daesh (IS) would be possible without the teamwork and tireless support of our ground crew and air-air refuelling units.’
An RAF Typhoon jet takes off during a visit by Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, this is what Lt Hansford piloted
Flight Lieutenant Thomas Hansford of the Royal Air Force was awarded DFC distinguished Flying Cross (pictured)
His citation was a glowing report of the skill and bravery he displayed.
It read: ‘Flight Lieutenant Hansford demonstrated exceptional leadership, judgment and bravery during his first mission as a lead pilot.
‘The complexity of this simultaneous strike required him to precisely enter varying cockpit switch selections, controlling sensors and weapons.
‘A single error could have resulted in a failure of the mission and a direct threat to friendly forces on the ground.’
The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded for an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy.