The campaign to celebrate the much loved and soon to retire Tornado aircraft continued with a farewell flypast of a nine aircraft over East Anglia.
Following the hugely popular series of Finale flypasts over the UK the previous week, the Tornado force carried out a sortie over Lincolnshire with nine aircraft from its base at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As witnessed the previous week, thousands of onlookers gathered along the route to see the iconic jet for the last time.
“The response to last week’s FINale flypasts reflects the high regard with which the aircraft is held by the UK public. With barely a fortnight before the disbandment parade for the two remaining Squadrons this was our opportunity to say thank you to all those who have supported Tornado since she entered service”
Group Captain Ian ‘Cab’ Townsend
RAF Marham Station Commander
The route from the Tornado’s home at RAF Marham took them over College Hall at RAF Cranwell where a graduation parade for new officers had taken place. Group Captain Ian ‘Cab’ Townsend added:
“It is sobering to think that most of the officers graduating today would not have been born when Tornado first entered service in 1979. Sad though it is, the time is right for Tornado to retire and hand the baton of UK Combat Air capability to the Typhoon and F35B Lightning, both exceptional aircraft able to meet the challenges of future warfare.”
In the immediate term, the Tornados will be replaced by new weapons capabilities for the Typhoon jet. Under ‘Project Centurion’, worth £425m over the past three years, the Typhoon now has deep strike cruise missile Storm Shadow, air-to-air missile Meteor and the precision attack missile Brimstone at their disposal.
The RAF’s new fleet of F-35 Lightning jets will form the backbone of the UK’s combat air fleet alongside the Typhoon jets in the coming years.
The Tornado will be officially retired from service at the end of March and will only be used for training purposes over the UK in the intervening period.
Nicknamed the "Tonka”, the aircraft’s first use in live operations was during the Gulf War in 1991, when 60 Tornado GR1s were deployed from bases in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Two years later they were upgraded to the GR4 model, which has been used ever since over the skies of Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.