Tornado GR4

RAF Timeline 1990 -1999

Back to [link not available]


Sentry 5 Jan 1990 - The first Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW1 for the RAF, ZH101, made its first flight from the Boeing facility at Seattle. The AWACS aircraft was intended to replace the 'stop-gap' Shackleton AEW Mk 2 in service with No 8 Squadron.

May 1990 - Twelve RAF SNCO's became the first to wear a new aircrew brevet, 'AT', or Airborne Technician. The twelve were training at the NATO base at Geilenkirchen on the Dutch/German border as E-3D Sentry aircrew.

June 1990 - The Red Arrows performed behind the Iron Curtain for the first time at Kiev and Budapest. Tornado in the Gulf

2 Aug 1990 - Iraq invaded Kuwait. On 11 August 29 Squadron Tornado F3s arrived at the Saudi Arabian Air Force Base at Dhahran and Jaguars of 6, 41 and 54 Squadrons arrived at the Omani Air Force base at Thumrait.

See also: Operation Granby


Jan 1991 - Flying Officer Anne Marie Dawe became the RAF's first female navigator on graduation from 6 FTS at Finningley. FO Dawe went on to fly with the Hercules fleet at Lyneham.

Shackleton AER2 17 Apr 1991 - WL757, a Shackleton AEW Mk 2 of No 8 Squadron, made the type's final flight in RAF service bringing to a close 40 years of active service. The Squadron officially handed over AEW duties to the Sentry unit at Waddington with a transfer of command on 1 July.

May 1991 - Hercules and Chinook detachments operating from bases in Turkey deliver tons of food, clothing and medical supplies to Kurdish refugees in Northern Iraq. These operations were to continue until 15 July.

Jun 1991 - Flight Lieutenant Julie Ann Gibson became the RAF's first female pilot. Flt Lt Gibson went on to fly Andovers with No 32 Squadron.


Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris Jan 1992 - A VC10 C1 of 10 Squadron flew Gurkha engineers and medical supplies to the Western Samoan Islands after the destruction caused by Cyclone Val.

Apr 1992 - With the disbandment of 60 Squadron, fixed wing flying ceased at RAF Wildenrath, the first of the RAF Germany stations to cease flying under the 'Options for Change' programme of reductions.

31 May 1992 - The Queen Mother unveils a statue of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris outside St Clement Danes Church in the Strand.

1 Jul 1992 - The mighty 56 Squadron with the distinctive Firebirds emblem re-reroled from the Phantom to the Tornado F3. The Squadron then became 56(Reserve) Squadron as it took over the duties of the Operational Conversion Unit.

Last Phantom maintenance 2 Jul 1992 - RAF Hercules transports began flying humanitarian aid into Sarajevo as part of Operation Cheshire, a UN sponsored mission. Sadly, the namesake of the Operation, Baron Cheshire of Woodhall, better known as Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC, DSO, DFC, the founder of the Cheshire Homes and a great humanitarian, died on 31 July, shortly before his 75th birthday.

1 Nov 1992 - Saw the final flypast of the Phantom when 74 (Tiger) Squadron disbanded at RAF Wattisham. The image on the right is the last Phantom to be serviced at the Station.

13 Nov 1992 - The famous 'golf balls' at RAF Fylingdales were replaced in service by the three sided Fylingdales domes pyramid structure of the new AN/FPS-115 phased-array radar which was formally commissioned on this day.

12 Dec 1992 - Two Hercules aircraft and four crews took part in Operation Vigour, the relief flights into Somalia. Based near Mombassa, Kenya, the aircraft flew missions to Mogadishu and Kismayu airports as well as to several rough fields within Somalia. 90 RAF personnel were deployed in this operation, working closely with the USAF in theatre.


19 Jan 1993 - The first of the upgraded Chinook HC2s for the RAF was rolled out at the Boeing plant at Philadelphia. The HC2 is comparable to the US Army's CH-47D with additional equipment.

Mar 1993 - Two notable closures were announced. The first was RAF Greenham Common, the former USAF base in Berkshire. The second was RAF Gutersloh in Germany, which had been an RAF station for 48 years. The last RAF aircraft left the site during this month.

Royal Air Force Colour 1 Apr 1993 - Her Majesty the Queen presented a new Colour to the Royal Air Force to mark the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the service. Also on this day, RAF Germany disbanded after 34 years of being part of the NATO front line.

29 May 1993 - The prototype Tornado GR4, XZ631, made its first flight at Warton, Lancashire. The GR4 is the mid-life update programme significantly upgrading the avionics on the strike/attack Tornado.

30 July 1993 - The first VC10 K4 tanker, ZD242, made its maiden flight from Filton near Bristol. Victor tanker

15 Oct 1993 - 55 Squadron disbanded, bringing to an end 33 years of flying Victor bombers and tankers, a record for a single RAF Squadron operating a single type of aircraft. 55 Squadron first flew the Victor B1 in 1960. The remaining seven Victor tankers were put up for disposal, the last Victor flight taking place on 30 November when XH672 was delivered to RAF Shawbury to be transported by road to the Aerospace Museum, Cosford.


Eurofighter 2000 4 May 1994 - The British Aerospace factory and airfield at Warton in Lancashire hosted the public debut of the Eurofighter 2000. The British prototype, ZH588, led a diamond-nine formation of types from the four nations involved in the programme, and test pilot Chris Yeo flew a spirited solo display.

5 Jun 1994 - Twelve RAF Hercules transports led by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Dakota flew to Pegasus Bridge in Normandy to deliver 1,000 paratroops as part of the D-Day anniversary celebrations. This was followed on 17 September by similar large drops along the route of the 1944 Operation Market Garden, from Eindhoven to Nijmegen and Arnhem in the Netherlands.

31 Jul 1994 - The last operational RAF unit in Belize ceased flying when the Puma HC1s of 1563 Flight were stood down.


Seaking 3a Feb 1995 - The first of six new Sea King HAR3A helicopters for the RAF's Search and Rescue flights made its maiden flight. The avionics and systems of the new version of the Sea King were much improved, and a new automatic flying control system was installed.

Mar 1995 - No 20 (Reserve) Squadron, the Harrier OCU, began operating the Harrier T10, the new two seat trainer version of the GR7. The T10 is day/night and all-weather capable to train pilots in attack missions under any conditions.

31 Mar 1995 - Over 100 years of British military ballooning came to an end with the disbandment of the RAF's Balloon Operations Squadron. The balloons had been used in the training of parachutists and were replaced by civilian contracted Short Skyvan aircraft.

Hercules C130j 8 Aug 1995 - Five Chinook HC2s and six Puma HC1s deployed to the port of Ploce, Croatia, to provide airlift support to the elements of 24 Airmobile Brigade already there.

18 Oct 1995 - The first Lockheed C-130J-30 Hercules C4 for the RAF, ZH865, was rolled out at Lockheed - Martin's Marietta, Georgia factory. 25 C-130Js were ordered for the RAF, of which the first 15 were to be the stretched -30 or C4 version.


Refueling of Hercules 9 Jan 1996 - The last relief flight into Sarajevo under Operation Cheshire, the UN humanitarian effort in Bosnia, was made by an RAF Hercules.

31 Mar 1996 - The Hercules tanker force was disbanded on the return of the last Hercules tanker from its detachment with 1312 Flight at Mount Pleasant in the Falklands.

1 Apr 1996 - The last RAF HQ on mainland Europe, that of 2 Group at Rheindahlen, disbanded. 1 Group HQ at High Wycombe had taken over the responsibilities of 2 Group on 4 March, after moving from RAF Benson earlier in the year.

Wessex Aug 1996 - Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine and a great pioneering aviation engineer, died aged 89.

4 Nov 1996 - RAF Sek Kong, the last RAF station in mainland Asia, closed when 28 Squadron moved its six Wessex HC2 helicopters to Kai Tak International Airport in Hong Kong, where it will operate from until 1997.


Griffin 1 Apr 1997 - The Defence Helicopter Flying School formed at RAF Shawbury to consolidate the helicopter training of all three services. 2 FTS of the RAF, 705 Naval Air Squadron and 670 Army Air Corps Squadron amalgamated in the new School.

Apr 1997 - Operations Support Branch was established, which incorporated five staff specialisations. These were Air Traffic Control, Fighter Control, Intelligence, RAF Regiment and Flight Operations.

31 Aug 1997 - The Gazelle HT3 training helicopter was retired from RAF service. It was replaced by the Squirrel HT1 as the basic helicopter trainer at the Defence Helicopter Flying School.

Tornado GR4 31 Oct 1997 - The first upgraded Tornado GR4, the strike attack version of the aircraft with modified systems and new avionics, was delivered to the RAF at Boscombe Down where it would begin trials.

6 Dec 1997 - The first of the new build Chinook HC2As for the RAF was delivered by Boeing. 13 more HC2As and HC3s will be delivered over the next three years.


C17 8 Jul 1998 - The Strategic Defence Review set out several sweeping changes for Britain's Air Forces. For the RAF, the early retirement of the VC10 and Tristar tankers and their replacement with an as yet undecided type, as well as the procurement of four C-17 Globemaster III transports for the Rapid Reaction Force were postulated. The Royal Navy was to acquire two new aircraft carriers and its Sea Harriers were to amalgamate with the RAF's GR7s in the Joint Harrier Force. The helicopter forces of all three services were to pool in a further example of 'jointery' as the Support Helicopter Force.

25 Nov 1998 - The first Merlin HC3 for the Royal Air Force to come off GKN Westland's production line was rolled out at its Yeovil, UK factory. The EH101, developed jointly by GKN Westland and Agusta of Italy, is in full scale production with eight aircraft already delivered to the Royal Navy and three more due for delivery by the end of 1998.

Merlin 16 Dec 1998 - RAF Tornados joined USAF F-117s in raids on military targets in Iraq, following a strike by US cruise missiles. Operation Desert Fox was a response to Iraq's continued refusal to co-operate with UN arms inspectors.


25 Jan 1999 - The Secretary of State for Defence, George Robertson MP,announced the RAF's Support Helicopter (SH) fleet of Chinook, Puma and Merlin helicopters will transfer to the new Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) to form on 5 October this year. In addition to the RAF helicopters, the Joint Force Harrier JHC will also be responsible for the Royal Navy's Commando helicopters and all operational Army Air Corps helicopters (including the new Apache attack helicopter) and have a strength of some 12,000 servicemen and women. Search and Rescue helicopters and some overseas units are not affected by this decision.

23 Feb 1999 - More details of Joint Force 2000 (JF2000) were announced. The new land- and carrier-based force will be located at the RAF bases of Wittering and Cottesmore and combine the RAF Harrier fleet and the Royal Navy's Sea Harrier F/A2 aircraft under one Headquarters located at RAF Strike Command, High Wycombe.

15 Jun 1999 - The RAF chose the Raytheon-led Astor consortium as its preferred bidder for its Airborne Stand-off Radar (ASTOR) requirement. The joint RAF/Army battlefield surveillance system will be installed on 5 Bombardier Global Express business-jets and will be based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire when it enters service in 2005, supported by a team of some 350 RAF and Army personnel and some 50 civilian contractors. Total value of the contract is estimated at £800 million.

18 Aug 1999 - An RAF Hercules flew aid to Turkey following the recent earthquake in the country. The aircraft, flown by a crew from No. 30 Squadron, flew in fire brigade rescue teams as well as search dogs and handlers. The rescue teams took a variety of equipment including first aid and thermal imaging cameras and probes to locate survivors trapped under debris. Also included in the passengers was a team of aeromedical evacuation specialists from the Tactical Medical Wing at Lyneham. Grob Tutor

13 Sep 1999 - The replacement for the Scottish Aviation Bulldog basic trainer, the new Grob 115E Tutor II, was presented to the press by Bombardier Aerospace at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell. 90 of the new aircraft are to be supplied for use by University Air Squadrons and Air Experience Flights at 14 locations around the country.

Forward to the Twenty First Century

Text size: