RAF Tornado GR4 In Special Color Scheme Celebrates +36 Years Of Tonka Operations (Ahead Of Retirement in 2019)

Amazing color scheme for this IX(B) Sqn “Tonka” at RAF Marham.

With the arrival of the first F-35B Lightning 5th generation aircraft, the Royal Air Force prepares to retire one of its most important and famous types: the Tornado GR4.

The last aircraft will be retired from active service next year. In order to celebrate +36 years of Tornado operations, the IX(B) Squadron, based at RAF Marham, pained the Tornado GR4 ZG775/AF in a special color scheme.

IX(B) Sqn moved to its current home base after the closure of RAF Brüggen, Germany, on July 17 2001. According to the RAF website “the Squadron deployed to Kuwait in February 2003 and was heavily involved in the second Gulf War as part of the Ali-Al Salem Combat Air Wing. From 2004 to 2010, IX (B) Squadron deployed annually to support Operation TELIC, in support of Allied troops on the ground in Iraq. The Squadron was also involved in Operation HERRICK, from 2008 to 2014, delivering Close Air Support over Afghanistan. In March 2011 the Squadron led the first long-range Storm Shadow mission in Libya on Operation ELLAMY, and deployed to Gioia del Colle, Italy, at the end of that year. In 2015, the Squadron deployed on Operation SHADER, and was the first to attack Syrian oilfields after Parliament’s vote on Dec. 2, 2015 to widen the air operation against D’aesh. That very night 16 targets were struck, 2 hours and 51 minutes after the vote returned overwhelming support.”

By the way, British Tornado attack planes are dubbed “Tonka”, an unofficial nickname that dates back to the early days of service. Here’s what a former RAF service member wrote on a modellers forum years ago about this nick:

“I joined the RAF in 1983, I did my training alongside ex-Tonka linies, they called them Tonkas so it pre-dates 1983, we all called them Tonka’s, everybody in the RAF called them Tonka’s, I’m always gonna call them Tonka’s – I ain’t never gonna call them by their proper name.”

Top image: Crown Copyright/RAF

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David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.