The Royal Air Force has just unveiled another special-colored “Tonka” ahead of the retirement of the aircraft from active service in March 2019.
Few days after the IX(B) Sqn unveiled theirs, the 31 Sqn, also based at RAF Marham, and one of the remaining Tornado units in RAF service, rolled out the aircraft ZD716/DH with a special livery that celebrates the 34 years of operations with the multirole aircraft.
The “Goldstars” have operated the Tornado since 1984, initially from RAF Bruggen, Germany, and then from RAF Marham since August 2001. Following the retirement of the Tornado, in March next year, 31 Squadron will stand down after 35 years of Tonka operations but will in due course reform to operate the Protector RG.1, the RAF designation for the MQ-9B SkyGuardian.
During this more than three decades of operations with the Tornado, 31 Squadron has taken part in the 1991 Gulf War and the Squadron has continued to fly on regular operations over Iraq. It also specialised in the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) role with the Air Launched Anti Radiation Missile ALARM Anti Radiation Missile. Then, in 1999, during Allied Force operation over Serbia and Kosovo, the Sqn operated from Solenzara airbase, in Corsica. After moving to RAF Marham in 2001, the squadron took part in Operation Resinate South and Operation Telic over Iraq. In 2005, the Squadron became the lead RAF Tornado GR4 unit to accept the Brimstone missiles into service, a weapon that was widely used by the RAF Tornado in combat beginning in 2011, during the Libya Air War, and later in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As already explained in a previous post, “Tonka” is an unofficial nickname of the British GR1 and GR4 aircraft, earned by the aircraft in the early days of service (beginning of the 1980s).
Top image: Crown Copyright/RAF