Meet Tornado Pilot Mandy Hickson, Who Executed A Perfect Maneuver To Survive A Missile
In 2001, during the Iraq war, there was a desert air base just 23 miles from the border of Iraq. A Royal Air Force Tornadoes squadron including pilot Mandy Hickson took off from the desert base on a reconnaissance mission. Mandy Hickson was also the first female fighter pilot of the RAF.
The Panavia Tornado is a twin-engine, variable-sweep wing multirole combat aircraft it was jointly developed by Italy, the United Kingdom, and West Germany. 2 crew members fly in the Tornado and Hicksons’s navigator sits in the back seat. When he looks to his right, he spots a surface missile launching toward them.
All Mandy heard was “Break Right” and she instantly executes the maneuver rolling to 120 degrees. Mandy had trained this maneuver hundreds of times before, but if she get it wrong this time, that could end her life. No matter how hard Hickson twists and turns the Tornado, the missile tracks the heat of the full-power engines of Tornado and keeps following it.
While Hickson turned the aircraft towards the ground, her navigator puts out flares as a countermeasure for the missile. The flares imitate the engine heat and distract the missile, but this missile keeps following the Tornado.
The pilot Mandy Hickson is smart and thinks fast then reduces the throttle to reduce the power of the engines to create a cooler target than the flares. The Tornado slows down and the engine heat drops. That’s when the missile changes direction to explode on the flares. After successfully beating the Iraqi attack, Hicksons’s wingman destroyed the missile battery and they safely returned to their desert base.
According to Mandy, the Panavia Tornado is one of the most remarkable aircraft that the Royal Air Force has ever seen.