A Royal Air Force navigator from RAF Marham has become the first person in history to log over 6000 hours flying in a Tornado fast jet. 

According to a news release from the RAF, Flight Lieutenant Chris Stradling 55, who is known as ‘Stradders’, was one of the aircrew that flew the Tornados recently to RAF Marham from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

It took 31 years flying on the aircraft to achieve the 6000 hrs milestone and to date Stradders is the only person from the nations who fly the Tornado – UK, Italy, Germany and Saudi Arabia, to break the 6000-hour mark.

“6000 hours on any fast jet is not common and to be the first person to do so on Tornado is a real sense of pride”, he said.

“My current boss has been brilliant and has certainly helped me to put a large dent in the hours. If it wasn’t for him and several other members of the Tornado Force at RAF Marham I probably wouldn’t have got close.”

Recently, after almost four decades on operations, Royal Air Force Tornado jets 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”.

65 COMMENTS

  1. That jet has essentially been his entire life. Must be tough to watch what was essentially your sound barrier breaking workplace being scrapped.

  2. 20 Squadrons of Harrier, Jaguar, Tornado F3, and Tornado GR4 have been replaced by 5, then 7 Squadrons of Typhoons, 5 Shadow R1, and a dozen or so Reapers.
    F35 only achieving IOC recently.

    That is the key to take away from GR4s demise, not the near half billion spent on Centurion to enable Typhoon to do what GR4 did already, Meteor excepted.

    As for FL Stradling, what an achievement.

    More if the right stuff than the donkeys upstairs will ever be.

    • And the RAF would take those Typhoons and F35s any day over 20 sqns of Harriers, GR4s ect. The capability we have now, and going to have once F35 is operational, plus systems like the new P8, Rivet Joint, Protector, sentinel, is a capability only matched in the world by the USAF. The F35 alone has huge potential, air-air, ISTAR and precision strike in one platform.

      • Robert, I think the point that Daniele Is making Is, the Lack of numbers, not the lack of Ability. It’s something a lot of us are worried about.

        • Yes I agree, I wish we had more, but so does every other nation, and we have way more then most, the way people discuss our armed forces, you would think we only had a token defence force, yes Russia and China have mind boggling numbers, but they are regional powers, especially China, they have large numbers of poorly trained personnel and equipment that can’t be deployed any further then Taiwan, we have global reach, yes it might not be in huge numbers but we can do it, and do it very very well. Capability is what keeps us at the top table, not numbers. The RAF is the most capable it’s ever been. But I agree we need a bit more mass.

      • Quite agree with that Robert.

        You rarely find me here putting a downer on our tech, professionalism, capabilities, or esteem in which we are held by others. In fact I shout it loud and clear, especially our intel capabilities.

        My concern is numbers. Always numbers.

        I’d also suggest at that time GR4 and Harrier GR7 were also cutting edge, with numbers to match.

    • Daniele, you are really comparing apples and oranges. It is no longer a case of Western Europe and the US versus the Warsaw Pact when comparing equipment/capabilities but Western Europe, Eastern Europe (i.e. old Warsaw Pact countries) and the US, compared to Russia. Everyone in this theater including Russia has less equipment than they used to during the Cold War.

      Russia has something like 420 fighter, 345 fighter ground attack and 215 attack aircraft, lets call it ~1,000 aircraft in aggregate, to predominantly cover both its Western and Eastern borders. Numbers are from the US Defense Intelligence Agency 2017 Russia report, quoting the 2015 IISS “The Military Balance” report. I doubt the numbers have changed that much since.

      NATO Europe, excluding the US, easily has a superior number of aircraft and that’s excluding some of the still flying older aircraft too. In fact Europe excluding Greece, Turkey, Poland (~500 aircraft) and the rest of the Eastern European countries, as well as excluding the non-Nato countries of Finland and Sweden (150 aircraft), can probably still muster ~1000 aircraft. Sure availability is also a factor, as it would be for Russia too.

      Bottom line we should probably scale up the UK’s air power based on global aspirations and carrier ops, but there’s no need to go crazy.

  3. I’m interested in his career – how can he be 55 and only be a Fl Lt? I don’t mean that disrespectfully as obviously he’s just passed a major milestone and to still be flying at 55 is incredible and exceptional. Was he busted down, did he never pass promotion exams – who knows? I went to school with a very high profile ex Red Arrow who later became CO of 3 SQN on Typhoon and finished his RAF career as Wing Co. He was fast-tracked and was instructing on the Hawk at the age of 21!

    I am in awe of servicemen generally but fast jet aircrew in particular. I failed my own FJ selection at Biggin Hill many years ago…

      • I wasn’t helped that it was the summer after “options for change” – when the downsizing really started accelerating. The RAF were training something like 30 FJ aircrew that year – front and back seaters so competition was off the scale.

    • Specialist Aircrew status keeps certain crew flying,instructing etc and they remain as Flt Lt.
      Avoids flyingvthe desk that promotion brings.

    • most FJ aircrew wrap up by 45, probably because they leave the service or get promoted above flying grade. There will always be a station boss (late 40s/early 50s) Group Captain who may want to keep his hours in. I’m not saying its too old – he obviously passes his medical, I’m just saying its unusual especially where the age does not fit the expected rank profile.

      • I’m just shocked the RAF allow people so close to bus pass age to still fly . You don’t see 50+ F1 drivers or MotoGP or suchlike. Do other airforces allow aging pilots like Viper?

        I’d assume they’d be too old for ‘frontline’ duties and be desk bound or instructors or have moved back to transport planes like C130’S etc.

        Fair play to him though.

        • sounds like he pulled in a few favours….it’s absolutely not typical. I remember when the GR1 did all its flying at low-level, there were a lot of crashes, I remember a GR1 Station Commander being killed and they clamped down after that.

        • I also remember in the film “independence day”, didn’t the POTUS actually fly into the alien space ship power plant to destroy it and he was certainly 50+, so yes, I think it happens in other countries too

          • For the record it wasn’t the POTUS who flew into the power plant (or rather into the emitter of the main weapon as it was about to fire), it was the alcoholic ex-Vietnam pilot who had previously been abducted by aliens and had then been working as a crop duster.

            Given your impressive abilities to come up with sci-fi quotes & other sci-fi knowledge I’m surprised not to see you correcting that one RGR.

            I think the crop duster was even older than the POTUS too by the way.

  4. His age and still flying
    It’s called sec aircrew.
    Shocking so many on here pontificate about multi billion pound project but clearly don’t know the basics of operating aircraft. Many knackered old shits Still flying. 😀👍

  5. Those commenting on Stradling’s age of 55 and questioning him still flying should perhaps be aware of the recently retired exceptional Aussie pilot – age 66 and still flying Hawk trainers! He took over the record for the world’s oldest active fighter pilot from a 60-year old Israeli. You can read about it in the linked article where it describes him having trained 499 pilots in his career of 10,000 hours of flying time.

    http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/22269/the-worlds-oldest-active-fighter-pilot-a-grandfather-of-four-retires

    • And maybe he shouldn’t be, the Shoreham crash was caused by a so called expert pilot in his 50′

      Is the guy an experienced pilot, no doubt. Should he be performing aerobatics in a fast jet? Clearly not.

      So many crashes seem to involve older pilots.We question peoples ability to drive a car as they get older, a lot of people, me included, think that maybe a test should be bought in for people 70+ for example.

      Is it not time to think about the same for pilots? Especially with the skies more crowded and the technology evolving so fast, Can you all honestly say you know exactly what every button and menu and sub menu do in your cars?

      • Yet many more crashes involve the young due to risk taking and belief in invincibility.
        As long as the man and his doctor concur that his body can take it let him do his job.
        The US Air National Guard have plenty of pilots that deploy in his age range flying everything from F-16s and F-15s to transports.

          • If were to challenge men decades younger than myself to a game of stalk and shoot in the woods almost all would lose in the first few hours if not the first 10 minutes. Why because I am better at it and have been tracking for my whole life.
            If I were to challenge them at marksmanship under fire they would lose. Why? Because they are aren’t as disciplined and don’t know what it is like. Experience and training trumps youth 9 times out of ten.
            Also why would I want you to give up your seat? Seats are give up for girls and cripples I have little tolerance for pity dressed up as feigned respect.
            On a different note:
            “Between the ages of 70 and 83, Commodore Vanderbilt added one hundred million dollars to his fortune. . . . At 74 Immanuel Kant wrote his ‘Antropology,’ the ‘Metaphysics of Ethics,’ and ‘Strife of the Faculties.’ . . . Goethe at 80 completed ‘Faust.’ . . . At 98 Titian painted his historic picture of the ‘Battle of Lepanto.’ . . . Can you calculate the loss to the world if such as these had been compelled to retire at 70”.

      • He isn’t doing aerobatics though; he’s a Tornado navigator, not flying a Red Arrow.

        He’s a WSO so he’s flying in the rear seat. He isn’t actually piloting the aircraft. I’d imagine that WSOs probably could stay on fast jets longer than pilots. For all we know his pilot is 25.

        As for his rank. It certainly is unusual, perhaps he’s resisted promotion and just not applied for it. Maybe he just loves what he does so much he’d prefer to keep flying than to go up the ranks.

  6. Ever so slightly off topic, but an interesting post that some people on here will appreciate!

    “Little is known about the planned Radar Two. This is, in part, because much remains to be fully defined, while some of the technologies required have yet to reach maturity.

    There are also certain sensitivities and classifications that prevent detailed analysis of the proposed radar and its capabilities, while there is also a commercial imperative for Euroradar to avoid ‘talking up’ this future radar, which remains many years from service, in a way that might cannibalise sales of Radar One Plus. This radar is, according to one programme insider, “a real thing, happening very soon, and it’s going to be transformational for TYPHOON!”

    https://www.monch.com/mpg/news/ew-c4i-channel/4578-ef-radar.html

    • Interesting read Nigel. My one concern is the way we develop these new capabilities and then stick them straight into planes headed to nations outside of the core 4, before we even have it. I believe we should always have the best first for at least a few years to keep an advantage – what happens if a country such as Saudi Arabia suddenly turns rogue and our unupgrade planes go up against theirs with all the latest kit? We should develop our he next gen upgrades on ours then only offer it out when the next upgrade is not far off.

    • A lot of the Radar 2 requirements for the RAF are driven by the performance of the AN-APG-81 AESA. The RAF want the Captor-E to be at least on par with the F35’s radar, but being as the Typhoon is intended to be the primary air defence aircraft, the air to air mode is the priority. However, the beauty of AESA is that it can multi-task concurrently, so can do 3D air searching as well as ground mapping simultaneously. It must be better than the Captor-M for range and be effective against sophisticated jamming.
      This is the difference that the Typhoon’s Captor-E will bring, as the original prototype was found to be very difficult to detect or jam. It has been ten years since the first prototype was tested and Leonardo are being very tight lipped about its capabilities, so could be bad or better than expected.
      If we then put the Captor-E in the same league as the AN-APG-81, then we shouldn’t think of the system as purely a radar, it so much more! The radar will have an extremely wide bandwidth, hence why the F35 can use it for data networking, but it also means that it can be used for electronic surveillance, jamming and EW targeting. Though not in the same power level league as Sampson, its transmitted beam over 50 miles could be at least 1 degree of divergence. This means it can illuminate a target with the full power of the radar, which on some unhardened systems will play havoc. If the Captor-E could do the same, Typhoon, will be a step ahead of other 4.5th gen aircraft, even those equipped with an AESA, due to its antenna array diameter. The Gripen E uses the Leonardo Raven ES-05 radar, which uses a similar roll-repositionable AESA antenna to provide a full ±100º field of regard like the Typhoon. However, the antenna array diameter is half the dimensions of the Captor-E array and in radar antenna performance size does matter.
      In truth the RAF are chomping at the bit, to get the Captor-E, but the budget is tied down to be over the next five years. So if it was sped up it would have to come at the expense to another projects budget. Iv’e no doubt we will be getting the Captor-E (Radar Two), within the end of this year or the next as its fully part of the Meteor program.

  7. WHat a great achievement to be still operational at 55 on the GR4. Well done that man!

    Not sure if the Typhoon and or the F-35 can take on all the roles covered by the Gr4 Tornado. They don’t have the legs or the carrying capacity for one. Our forces do seem to be continually having to try to do the same with less, and we all know you can’t.

  8. With age, comes experience! That’s why test pilots don’t tend to be twenty-somethings. The late, great Ed Strongman was 64 when he retired. I don’t think that an aircraft as large as an A400 has performed so well at an airshow since his death. As long as the pilot passes the medical, then age can be an advantage….don’t write us mature guys off so quickly…Sonny Jim! By the way, the Shorham trial is still ongoing and I would caution against making pejorative statements against anyone concerned on a public forum!

    • Why is everyone in denial that as people get old ( and yes 55 is pretty old) their mental and physical abilities decline?

      Can any of you beat your grand kids on the x box? Do we see old people driving F1 MotoGP etc?

      No, their roles are now as leaders, mentors, trainers, to the younger people that have the quick reactions required etc etc. Old people are for hanging around the place saying helpful things like ‘in my day all this was fields….’

      I wasn’t trying to criticize the old guy or writing off mature guys as you put it. I was just expressing surprise that the RAF let 55 year olds in their fast jets. But all you old farts pulled your trousers up to your boobs, put a packet of werthers originals in your pocket, took the little blue tablet and waved your walking frames at me!

      • Sorry chum, but that is a pretty immature reply. I would have thought that Albert Einstein’s mental abilities at 60 was somewhat better then yours…or mine. Why should X-box aptitude denote intelligence…it’s just a matter of how you want to waste your time…it’s a cultural difference that signifies nothing. Why should it be a surprise that someone of 55 should still be flying. If I were a rooky pilot, I think that I would be rather grateful to have such an experienced aviator in the back seat. Ed Strongman was employed by Airbus as their chief test pilot until he retired due to ill health (sadly, this can happen at any age). Why do you think that they employed him….to stand around telling everyone how it was in his day? Somewhat insulting that…whichever way you look at it. No, Airbus knew that they had a pilot of huge experience and technical prowess that could not be challenged by the X-box playing generation. Just give credit where credit is due and don’t make assumptions, without good evidence, they are worthless!

        • Sorry Chum but I didn’t once refer to intelligence, must be your failing eyesight. Your comments about test pilots, perhaps the same as mine about older people becoming mentors, trainers etc? Clearly you didn’t see those or more likely chose to ignore them.

          I was saying I was surprised that a 55 year old sits in the back of a frontline fast jet. That’s it, that’s all I said.
          I said it as I was surprised, because as people get older their mental acuity and physical acuity decline. Happens to us all.

          You seriously believe think the best of the best 55 year old has better reactions, better mental alertness than the best of the best 16 year old? Nothing to do with intelligence.

          Your histrionics suggest you’re completely in denial about age affecting us all. Your inability to even consider somebody else’s point of view reinforces your ageist attitude that older people are better than younger due to ‘experience’. That’s about all most older people have, their bodies and minds aren’t what they once were, so they use the word experience. arrogance would be a better word.

          • I am not in denial about age, I am a mature adult….clearly, you are not! Perhaps you ought to read what I have written again…don’t make assumptions about people. Do you think that the likes of Airbus and the RAF would employ frontline staff that aren’t up to the job. Your arguments might be more effective if you weren’t so unnecessarily rude.

          • @Herodotus.

            I disagree, its clear for all to see you are behaving like a petulant child in this instance. Sorry if you consider that rude. I’m not a rude person, I would absolutely hold the door open for you or give up my seat on a bus to an elderly person.

            Your arguments might be more effective if they were in anyway based on facts, or you took the time to read other peoples comments and understood them before launching into a tirade.

            I am a grown up too so I absolutely respect your opinion, I’ve seen other posts of yours and liked them, but in this instance you have misunderstood my original point, and continue to do so, deliberately it seems.

            At no point did I say he wasn’t up to his job, again, read the other persons comments. If you’re just going type nonsense there’s little point in continuing an adult discussion.

            I understand you, you’re old, you feel marginalised, you don’t understand the world anymore. You don’t like people that have different opinions from yours. You probably view this as your personal website for you and people who share you world view and how dare anyone offer up a thought or opinion that you disagree with.

            I understand. I feel sorry for you and ageist people like you. I work with older and younger people and both age groups have idiots and great people.

            Luckily most older people are decent human beings that have earned our respect they don’t demand it as they are ‘old’.

          • My dear fellow, how can I ease your pain? Children quite often have difficulties in controlling their emotions and often resort to trying to control other people’s behaviour. Your inability to cope with contrary points of view are an indication of something very wrong in your psyche. Your immediate resort to defamation is indicative of a disturbed mind and an inability to deal with your emotions! You suggest that I am ageist…have you looked at your postings. Little boy can’t get his own way….and he is going to scream the place down until he gets it. Trying to control other peoples’ behaviour is infantile, the adult thing to do is to control you own emotions.

            On the other hand, you are probably a troll…I hope that that is the case. If it isn’t, try the Mind website!

    • Knowing the UK MOD sold off at criminally low prices to either museums, scrap yards, or Middle East and South American countries.

    • Most I would guess scrapped.

      Though RAF Cosford used to have many Jaguar as ground instructional airframes, so I wonder how many have ended up there in their place?

  9. Kudos to Flt Lt Stradling for achieving this milestone.

    As the saying goes, “Age is just a number, not a state of mind.” It does seem a lot of comments about Flt Lt Stradling seem to forget that he was not piloting the aircraft, but was the WSO or Navigator.

    And if we are to equate getting a Driver’s license with flying fast jets, It should be pointed out that a majority of auto accidents are by those who are 25 and under. The same would be for pilots. The big difference is that fast jet pilots have flight simulators that enable them to accrue experience in a safe environment. That training allows them the ability to avoid mistakes in the real world. Plus pilot training is a lot more stringent compared to learning to drive.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here