RAF Tornado Op Shader, Wing Commander James Heeps, OC 31 Squadron (centre left) and Wing Commander Matt Bressani, OC 9 Squadron (centre right) (Crown Copyright, 2019)

Last Return of the RAF’s Tornados

RAF Marham Welcomes Home Last of the Tornados After Operation SHADER

The RAF’s iconic Tornado jets have returned home for the last time after almost 40 years serving Britain on military operations across the world. Families and friends of the present-day Tornado 31 Squadron members were on hand to welcome them back to RAF Marham, Norfolk, today Tuesday, 5th January 2019.

First entering service in 1979, the Tornado has been used in operations across the world, most recently against the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) in Syria and Iraq on Operation SHADER. On January 31st of January 2019, the RAF operated the final operational sortie of the Tornado GR4.

The end of an era.

Always good for some blarney, Britain’s 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.”

Project Centurion Equips Typhoons to Take Tornado Role

The weapons capabilities of the soon-to-retire Tornados are now being delivered by RAF Typhoon jets, which will continue to take a leading role in the Coalition’s mission against the Islamic State. Under the £425million ‘Project Centurion’, the Typhoon can now also launch the world-leading Meteor air-to-air missile, the Stormshadow deep strike cruise missile and the Brimstone precision attack missile.

Project Centurion improved RAF Typhoons will form the backbone of Britain’s combat air fleet, alongside the recently introduced new fleet of F-35B Lighting II jets over the coming years.

The Tornado will be officially retired from service at the end of March and will only be used for training purposes over the UK in the intervening period.

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.


Source: MOD

Image: Pictured are the aircrew of the final sortie shortly after landing for the last time. Wing Commander James Heeps, OC 31 Squadron (centre left) and Wing Commander Matt Bressani, OC 9 Squadron (centre right). On January 31st of January 2019, the RAF operated the final operational sortie of the Tornado GR4. The aircraft (ZA601/066 and ZA542/035) took off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. Pictured here is the last aircraft to take off, bringing an end to four and a half years of the Tornado’s involvement on Op SHADER. (Crown Copyright, 2019)