Behold These Stunning Photos Of A Unique Formation Of The Last Three Special Colored Tornado GR4 Jets

Image shows three specially painted GR4's off the wing of a Voyager flying over the North Sea. (All images: RAF/Crown Copyright)

The Royal Air Force has just released some stunning shots of the three special-colored “Tonka” jets that celebrate nearly 40 years of service of the type.

On Mar. 31, 2019, the Royal Air Force will retire its Tornado GR4 aircraft, bringing the about 40-year career of the iconic attack aircraft to an end.

In order to celebrate the imminent withdrawal from active service, three Tornado jets (trainer variants – with dual controls) have been painted in special color scheme: in November, both the IX(B) Sqn and the 31 Sqn, the last two Tonka units, both based at RAF Marham, rolled out their specials, followed, a few days ago, by another aircraft, ZG752, which was given the retro old grey/green camouflage scheme used before all the aircraft were painted grey.

The three aircraft took part in a joint sortie on Jan. 23, 2019.

“I was immensely proud to have led the ‘Tail Art’ formation, our first event which celebrates the imminent retirement of the Tornado after almost 40 years of service,” Group Captain Ian (Cab) Townsend, Station Commander at RAF Marham, who led formation in images, said in an official release.

Three specially painted Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado GR4’s took to the skies on a training sortie which included aerial tanking with a Voyager A330MRRT out of RAF Brize Norton.

“The success of the sortie was borne out of the outstanding Whole Force support at RAF Marham who remain focused on sustaining Tornado operations and are as committed today as they were in 1982 when the first Tornado landed at the Station.”



As the RAF website highlights, the Tornado first entered British service in 1979, principally in the Cold War nuclear strike and interdiction role. Its combat debut in the 1991 Gulf War heralded a period of near continuous operations which continue to this date.

“Some 28 years after those first missions to help liberate Kuwait the RAF’s two remaining Tornado squadrons, IX(B) and 31 Squadrons, remain on operations in the Middle East fully committed to the fight against Daesh as part of the Global Coalition effort”. Unfortunately, only until Mar. 31, 2019.

Image shows the three specially painted GR4’s ‘stacked’ off the wing of an Airbus Voyager over the North Sea. The Panavia Tornado GR.Mk 4 is the UK’s primary ground attack platform and also fulfils an important reconnaissance role. The aircraft conducts attack missions against planned targets, armed reconnaissance against targets of opportunity and close air support (CAS) for ground forces, typically under the control of a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC).
About David Cenciotti 3709 Articles
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.