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RAF Tornados fly last mission

RAF Tornados fly last mission

The RAF’s Tornado GR4 flew its last operational mission on Operation ‘Shader’ on 31 January.

Winds of change: Iconic RAF Tornado jets make final flight home after 40 years defending Britain as new Typhoons take up mantle to smash ISIS in Syria

- The last RAF Tornado fighter jet has returned to the UK, marking an end to 40 years of service for the model
- The Tornado was introduced in 1979 and first saw active duty in the 1991 Gulf War against Saddam Hussein
- After Iraq, Tornados saw action in the 1999 war in Kosovo and in this century's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
- The Tornado has been replaced by the Typhoon and the stealth jet the F35 Lightning introduced last month

A pair of aircraft flew an armed overwatch mission, each equipped with three Paveway IV dual-mode bombs, Litening III laser designator pods and 2,250-litre ‘Hindenburger’ fuel tanks, together with Saab BOZ and Terma AIRCM (Advanced Infrared Countermeasures) chaff/flare/decoy pods.

No weapons were dropped on the sortie, and the last weapon released by a Tornado on Operation ‘Shader’ was dropped on 28 January. The last mission using the Reconnaissance Airborne Pod Tornado (RAPTOR) was flownon 27 January.

The eight RAF Tornado GR4s that had been deployed to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, for Operation ‘Shader’ then returned to RAF Marham on 4 and 5 February.

RAF Deputy Commander Operations, Air Marshall Stu Atha, told Jane’s that there were no current plans to expand the six-aircraft Typhoon element on Operation ‘Shader’. He said that although No 903 Expeditionary Air Wing will no longer sustain the same tempo of operations as it did with 14 fast jets, the campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS) is moving into a different phase.

“The physical caliphate has been rolled back and the final vestiges are very small,” he said, predictingthat the campaign would become moreof a close air support operation, in which the Reaper remotely piloted aircraft system is likely to play an increasing part. He pointed out that the UK’s contribution will still be second only to that of the US.

Families and friends of the present-day squadron members were on hand to welcome them back to RAF Marham, Norfolk, this afternoon.

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.

Originally named the Tornado GR1 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.

Later they were upgraded to the GR4 model, which has been used ever since over the skies of Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘It is with a heavy heart,

but enormous pride, that we bid farewell to the Tornado from operations.This truly is the end of an era, having played a vital role in keeping Britain and its allies safe for four decades

‘But, after so long in service, it is only right that we now look to the future. The combination of our state-of-the art F35s and the Typhoon’s new weapon systems will keep us as a world leader in air combat for a generation.’

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said: ‘My sincerest congratulations to the Tornado Force, returning home after more than four years of continuous commitment to defeating Daesh in Iraq and Syria – an exceptional effort from everyone, well done and thank you.

‘As a Tornado GR4 pilot myself, I have seen the aircraft develop overits nearly 40 years of service into an outstanding combat aircraft, flown, maintained and supported by similarly outstanding air and groundcrew.

‘The Tornado Force has been continuously deployed on operations since1990, serving with immense distinction in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and the Balkans.

‘I will personally be very sad to see the Tornado retire, but it is time now to pass the baton to our next generation combat aircraft. The F-35B Lightning is now operational and the Typhoon is now fully multi-role capable and able to take on the Tornado’s missions.

‘We can all take immense pride in what the Tornado has achieved in defence of the nation over nearly four decades, and reflect back on the courage, commitment and achievements of everyone who has contributed to the success of this extraordinary aircraft.

RAF Tornados fly last missionOn 31 January, the RAF conducted its last operational sortie with the Tornado GR4 (pictured: the last of the two aircraft to take off, bringing an end to four and a half years of the type’s involvement in Operation ‘Shader’). (Photo by UK MOD)

The capabilities of the Tornados are now being delivered by RAF Typhoon jets.

Under ‘Project Centurion’, worth £425million over the past three years, the Typhoon can now launch the Meteor air-to-air missile, the Stormshadow deep strike cruise missile and the precision attack missile Brimstone.

When the Typhoon was first introduced it was not equipped to carry the Brimstone missile.

Tornados were used more than Typhoons during Nato air strikes in Libya in 2011 because they equipped with Brimstone and the latest 500lb Paveway IV laser- and GPS-guided bombs.

Typhoons have only had Paveway IVs since 2014 and in Libya had to use the older, larger, and less sophisticated 1,000lb or 2,000lb Paveway II ordnance.

The RAF said its improved RAF Typhoon jets ‘will form the backbone ofthe UK’s combat air fleet’, alongside the recently introduced fleet of stealth F-35 Lighting jets over the coming years.

The RAF said it had already run operation trials in which the TyphoonLighting jets worked together and said ‘the evidence gathered has confirmed the potency of the combination and demonstrated the effectiveness of both platforms when operating alongside on another’.

RAF Tornados fly last missionThe Tornado has variable geometry wings which can be spread or swept back as required. With wings fully spread the plane has a wingspan of more than 45 feet, but with wings tucked back for fast straight flying it measures just 28 feet across. (Photo by UK MOD)

The Tornado can trace its DNA all the way back to work by Sir Barnes Wallis, better known for developing the ‘bouncing bomb’ used by 617 Sqn ‘The Dambusters’ in 1943, who began work on variable geometry (VG) wing designs in the 1950s.

He realised with a VG aircraft’s wings swept forwards – spread wide – it could use shorter runways and display greater manoeuvrability, and by sweeping them back could achieve maximum high-speed performance.

Although no planes were built from his designs, VG wings became commonly used on fighter aircraft through the latter half of the twentieth century, including on the Tornado.

It was initially created by a British-German-Italian conglomerate, Panavia, which was set up in Germany to build the craft.

The Tornado programme was initiated in 1968, and the first prototype flew on 14 August 19

The initial RAF requirement was for 220 aircraft, and the first of these was delivered to RAF Cottesmore in July 1980, becoming the mainstay of the RAF strike force in June 1982

RAF Tornados took part in the 1999 Kosovo war and the GR4 upgrade wascompleted in time for Operation Telic, the UK’s deployment in Iraq from2003 to 2011.

Tornados were used in Afghanistan from 2009 until the withdrawal of UK forces in 2014. According to the Ministry of Defence, they flew over 5,000 sorties and logged more than 33,500 flight hours during this time.

RAF Tornados fly last mission
Pictured here are the aircrew of the final sortie shortly after landing for the last time. On January 31st of January 2019, the RAF operated the final operational sortie of the Tornado GR4. (Photo by UK MOD

Source: IHS JANES News by Jon Lake / By Joel Adams For Mailonline - 06 February 2019

Photo: Magnificent Flying Machines: The RAF Tornado GR4, initially introduced in 1979 and first in service in 1982, has now been retired. Pictured above: the last Tornado to take to the skies to return from Cyprus. The Tornado, whose powerful jet engines can propel it to a top speed of 1.3 times the speed of sound, will be officially retired from service at the end of March and will only be used for training purposes over the UK between now and then. (Photo by UK MOD)

Marry Watson (UK and USA ©XAirForces News Editor from London)

RAF Tornados fly last mission


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