Formations Of Tornados Turn 40 Years Of Service Celebrations Into Heaven For ‘Tonka’ Lovers

10-ship formation flying over Lake Garda during the Desenzano Airshow. (All images: Author)

Formations of up to 10 Tornados and some fast passes were the highlights of “Tornado40” event in Ghedi Air Base.

On Sept. 8, 2022, the Italian Air Force celebrated the 40-year career of the Tornado in Italian service during a so-called Tornado40 event, held at Ghedi Air Base, home of the 6° Stormo (Wing). For the occasion, the ItAF organized a reunion of personnel who had the chance to work on the type since it entered in active service with the Aeronautica Militare in 1982 (the first aircraft was taken on charge by the Reparto Sperimentale Volo, the Test Wing at Pratica di Mare, near Rome, in 1981).

To celebrate the four decades of service the Wing also officially presented a new special colored Tornado (that we had spotted during its first flight in the new livery), the airframe MM7059/6-66 (a Tornado ECR with In Flight Refueling probe pod removed) that was given a camouflage that sums up all the four liveries the Italian Tornados have worn since the first flight of the prototype: the red and white of the P.05 prototype that flew in 1975; the camouflaged scheme worn by the Italian PA-200s (now A/EA-200) in the 1980s and 1990s; the sand-colored paint scheme of the Tornados that took part in Operation “Locusta” in Kuwait and Iraq in 1990-1991; and the current overall grey scheme.

The special color at Ghedi AB on Sept. 8, 2022.

As already pointed out in our previous story on the new special color, the tail is adorned with the 40th anniversary badge whereas the fuel tanks sport the emblems of the four operational units that have operated the Tornado within the Italian Air Force in the air to ground role: the 102°, 154°, 155° (still flying the type as part of the 6° Stormo) and the currently disbanded 156° Gruppo (Squadron). Although just for testing purposes, another unit has been assigned and flown the “Tonka” during the years, the 311th Squadron of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Italian Air Force Test Wing).

Turning and burning!

Actually, two additional units have flown the Air Defence Variant of the Tornado (the Tornado F3), the 12° and the 21° Gruppo, when the type was selected as the first gap-filler between the F-104 Starfighter and the induction into active service of the first Eurofighters (another gap filler with the same “task” was the F-16ADF).

Anyway, the Tornado in special color scheme took part in the flying segment of the celebrations at Ghedi, that also included a display by the “Legend Formation” (first established in 2015) as well as a rehearsal of an airshow routine by the Frecce Tricolori display team.

The real highlight of the flying display was the flypast carried out by a 9-ship Tornado formation with the Frecce Tricolori.

The impressive formation of 9 Tornados followed by the Frecce Tricolori.

Also remarkable were the passes of a single Tornado, followed by those of the large “Tonka” formation, that rejoined for a final pass made by 10 aircraft led by the special color.

The 9-ship over Ghedi
Low pass

On the following days, Sept. 9 and 10, solo, 9-ship and final 10-ship formations also took part in the Air Show del Garda, at Desenzano on Lake Garda, that provided a breathtaking setting for the passes.


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The photos and videos in this article were taken over the three days at Ghedi and Desenzano (rehearsals and airshow).


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The Italian Air Force plans to replace the Tornado with the F-35. The first Lightning II of the 6th Wing should be assigned to the 102° Gruppo, that currently acts as the Tornado OCU (Operational Conversion Unit). The second unit, based on the current plan, should be the 154° Gruppo, even though the plan may still change.

9-ship over Desenzano
The formation with gear down
DEVIL01 over Lake Garda.
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a 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 five books and contributed to many more ones.