RAF Tornado makes final flight into retirement

Thursday 14th March 2019 04:00 GMT

A disbandment parade and flypast will finally mark the end of an era after a valedictory airborne tour of the UK in recent weeks.

The last flight, if the weather allows, will be flown by Squadron Leader Ian 'Doorknob' Dornan and Squadron Leader Stephen 'Bamber' Beardmore - between them they have more than 9,000 flying hours on the Tornado.

The Head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, himself a former Tornado pilot, paid tribute to the aircraft.

He said: "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."

"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 said.

The Tornado entered service in 1979. It was originally designed as a Cold War bomber aircraft, intended to fly low and fast over the flat plains of eastern Europe.

Nicknamed the 'Tonka', it saw operational service for the first time during The Gulf War in 1991 - sixty aircraft were based at stations in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

It was the start of long period of operational service which included campaigns over Kosovo, Afghanistan and the 2003 Iraq War.

In recent years Tornados were deployed to bomb Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria from RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus.

After four years flying missions as part of Operation Shader, the remaining Tornados returned to the UK on 5th February.

The Tornado is being replaced by the new F35 stealth jet which also has the capability to fly off the Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers.

And the RAF Typhoon fleet, also operating over Iraq and Syria, has undergone an upgrade to give it some of the Tornado's capabilities including the ability to launch the advanced Brimstone missile.

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