Last week, the iconic Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 flew over many of the country’s RAF bases.
The RAF Tornado GR4 fleet prepares for retirement. The official deadline is set to Mar. 31, 2019, even though there are rumors that the aircraft will eventually fly for the last time on Mar. 14.
Before leaving active series, after nearly 40 years of operations, the iconic attack aircraft conducted a series of flypasts over many of the country’s RAF bases where hundreds of people gathered to watch the aircraft’s farewell.
Three tours were arranged by the RAF, on Feb. 19, 20 and 21. Three special painted jets, the 31 Squadron “Goldstars”, 9 Squadron IX (Bomber) Squadron “Green Bats” and the 1980’s camouflage tribute “Tonkas” (as the aircraft are nicknamed since the early ’80s), took part in the flypasts launching from RAF Marham in Norfolk to cover (roughly) all the airbases in Central, Southern UK and Scotland.
Kudos to the RAF Marham media team for an excellent coverage of the final flypasts, including weather and schedule updates.
The Tornado GR4 FINale flypasts are now confirmed! Tues 19, Wed 20, Thu 21 Feb. The attached maps show where you can get a glimpse of her, timings will be published later. Day 1 includes @Nat_Mem_Arb @RAF_Cosford @RAF_Shawbury @RAF_Valley @BAESystemsAir @RAF_Leeming pic.twitter.com/E17mJK8zg0
— RAF Marham (@RAFMarhamMedia) February 11, 2019
Station Commander Ian “Cab” Townsend and Air Chief Marshall Stephen Hillier took to the skies in the Tornado GR4 for their final sortie on Feb. 21, before the disbandment of 9 and 31 squadrons on the 31st March 2019. Stephen Hillier has clocked up an astounding 2170 flying hours in the Tornado in his 32 years service for the Royal Air Force!
Final flight in the mighty Tornado – 2,170 flying hours (25 of them as CAS); 11,932 days from first flight to last! Privileged to lead flypasts today over Leuchars, Lossiemouth and Tain, and then back to Marham. Huge thanks to IX(B) and 31 Sqns. @RAFMarhamMedia @RAFLossiemouth pic.twitter.com/zT7O9eN8kp
— ACM Stephen Hillier (@ChiefofAirStaff) February 21, 2019
The three-ship formation headed north to Scotland for the final day of 3 flypast routes that covered the airbases that had paid a significant part in the Tornados incredible 40 year journey. Our friend and contributor Stewart Jack was at RAF Marham and took the photographs of this historical event.
On Jan. 31, 2019, the RAF launched the final operational sortie of the Tornado GR4. The aircraft (ZA601/066 and ZA542/035) took off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and operated the final mission against Daesh in Syria and Iraq, marking the end of the type’s involvement in Operation “Shader”. The eight RAF Tornado jets, belonging to both the No 9 and 31 Sqn and operating as part of the No 903 Expeditionary Air Wing returned home on Feb. 4 and 5: the first five aircraft returned to RAF Marham on Feb. 4; the remaining three, landed at their homebase on Feb. 5, 2019.
Since then, the Tornado GR4s are conducting training sorties around the country. Unfortunately, the aircraft are no longer flying at ultra low level meaning that there will be no more opportunities to catch the Tonka flying fast through the valleys in the “Mach Loop”.