After almost four decades on operations, Royal Air Force Tornado jets have returned home to RAF Marham from operations in the Middle East.
First entering service in 1979, the fast jets have been involved in Op Shader for the past four and a half years, the UK’s mission to defeat Da’esh in Syria and Iraq.
“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”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson
Assisted by a Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker from RAF Brize Norton, five Tornados returned to RAF Marham yesterday, with the remaining three returning today. Families and friends of the crew were on hand to welcome them back to the Norfolk base.
The Tornados’ weapons capabilities have been transferred to RAF Typhoon fast jets. Under the £425m ‘Project Centurion’, the Typhoon is now capable of delivering the Meteor air-to-air missile, the Stormshadow fire-and-forget cruise missile, and the Brimstone precision attack missile. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the Typhoon’s “new weapon systems will keep us as a world leader in air combat for a generation”.
The Tornado will be officially retired from service at the end of March. Speaking to the UK Defence Journal, the Ministry of Defence said the Tornados would “remain over UK skies for help with training exercises” until their retirement.
Gavin Williamson recently announced that RAF F-35 Lightning jets have been declared operational and are ready to be deployed around the world. Alongside the Typhoon, it will now form the backbone of the UK’s combat air fleet.
The F-35 could be deployed to RAF Akrotiri later this year to continue the fight against Da’esh.
The RAF trialled the interoperability between its Typhoon and F-35 aircraft last year, which it says proved “the effectiveness of both platforms when operating alongside one another”.
The head of the Royal Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, passed on his “sincerest congratulations to the Tornado Force”. He commended their “exceptional effort” after “4 years of continuous commitment to defeating Daesh in Iraq and Syria”
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.
They were later upgraded to the GR4 model, which has been used ever since over the skies of Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
"Welcome home guys"
Tornado GR-4 crews return to RAF Marham from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, after taking part in Op Shader, patrolling over Syria & Iraq. @RoyalAirForce @StnCdrRAFMarham pic.twitter.com/E3Eo2npvTd
— Mark kerton (@Kertonphoto) February 4, 2019