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Tornado tales

Photo: Jamie Hunter


With just three months of Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 operations left, our 2019 AFM issues launch with a series of features dedicated to this popular type. The January 2019 issue, on sale from today, includes the first of our Tornado tales, celebrating the career of the ever-popular GR as it nears the end of its RAF service as Jamie Hunter meets Flt Lt (ret’d) Bill Read, who talks about his time at the front end of the ‘Mighty Fin’.

“It was just one of those sorties where everything clicked,” Read smiled as he took a sip from his pint of ale. “I was on my first frontline tour in the Tornado with No 17 Squadron at RAF Brüggen. On this particular day I was number three in a four-ship, with our squadron commander and one of our flight commanders trying to ‘bounce’ us.”

It was a familiar mission from the RAF Germany (RAFG) base – four Tornado GR1s as a package, ‘down in the weeds’ and trying to get to a simulated target while evading marauding squadron colleagues playing the bad guys, attempting to intercept and ‘shoot them down’. “The squadron boss started ‘tapping’ us [he had detected the four-ship formation] but it soon became apparent that myself and my wingman were on the same page; we both reacted to his moves on us in complete harmony without any radio communications between the aircraft. It all worked perfectly.”

Read went on to become one of the highest flight-hour RAF Tornado pilots, flying the original GR1 and then the upgraded GR4. He notched up 4,517 hours at the controls of the jet before retiring in 2017.

Read his full story in the January 2019 issue, on sale now.

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