Iconic RAF Tornado jets fly for the last time after 40 years defending Britain

Iconic RAF Tornado jets fly for the last time after 40 years defending Britain

February 5, 2019

They are due to be replaced by Typhoons after spending 40 years defending Britain.

After entering service in 1979 the jets have been used all over the world – most recently bombing Isis with missiles to push the terrorist group back through Syria and Iraq.

Squadron members were welcomed back by family and friends as they landed this afternoon at RAF Marham, Norfolk.

Originally named the Tornado GR1 the aircraft’s first use in live operations was during the Gulf War in 1991, when 60 Tornado GR1s were deployed from bases in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Later they were upgraded to the GR4 model, which has been used ever since over the skies of Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

From now on they will only be used for training purposes over the UK, before the Typhoons officially take on the mantle in March.

The new and improved RAF jets will make up the backbone of the UK's combat airfleet – joining the new fleet of F-35 Lightning jets.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "It is with a heavy heart, but enormous pride, that we bid farewell to the Tornado from operations.

"This truly is the end of an era, having played a vital role in keeping Britain and its allies safe for four decades.

The Tornado's capabilites

The Tornado is capable of engaging all targets on the battlefield – able to strike bunkers and other hardened facilities, armoured vehicles and targets that require little collateral damage.

They are flexible when flying with a 27mm gun for varied targets.

The aircraft carry Paveway guided bombs and Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles.

They can reach top speeds of Mach 1.3 and fly to an altitude of 50,000ft.

A Tornado's wingspan is 45ft6in and the jet is 56ft5ins in length.

"But, after so long in service, it is only right that we now look to the future.

"The combination of our state-of-the art F35s and the Typhoon’s new weapon systems will keep us as a world leader in air combat for a generation."

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said: "My sincerest congratulations to the Tornado Force, returning home after more than 4 years of continuous commitment to defeating Daesh in Iraq and Syria – an exceptional effort from everyone, well done and thank you.

"As a Tornado GR4 pilot myself, I have seen the aircraft develop over its nearly 40 years of service into an outstanding combat aircraft, flown, maintained and supported by similarly outstanding air and groundcrew.


"The Tornado Force has been continuously deployed on operations since 1990, serving with immense distinction in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and the Balkans.

"I will personally be very sad to see the Tornado retire, but it is time now to pass the baton to our next generation combat aircraft.

"The F-35B Lightning is now operational and the Typhoon is now fully multi-role capable and able to take on the Tornado’s missions.

"We can all take immense pride in what the Tornado has achieved in defence of the nation over nearly four decades, and reflect back on the courage, commitment and achievements of everyone who has contributed to the success of this extraordinary aircraft."

The RAF has already trialled its Typhoon and F-35 Forces’ abilities to work together.

In a series of trials, the effectiveness of both platforms when operating alongside one another has been confirmed.

With its larger payload and increased agility and range, the Typhoon will operate in concert with the stealthy F-35 and its next-generation sensors, delivering the UK a force ready to counter evolving threats in the global environment.

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