The Royal Air Force has released air-to-air images of the three-ship formation put up on January 23 to mark the Tornado GR’s pending retirement.
The Tornado will be withdrawn from RAF service on March 31. Tor commemorate the event, three (dual-control) training variants of the Tornado GR4 have received special markings including the classic grey/green camouflage scheme on ZG752, which the Tornado sported in its early career.
Station commander at RAF Marham, Gp Capt Ian (Cab) Townsend led the formation: “I was immensely proud to have led the ‘tail art’ formation, our first event which celebrates the imminent retirement of the Tornado after almost 40 years of service.
“The success of the sortie was borne out of the outstanding whole force support at RAF Marham who remain focused on sustaining Tornado operations and are as committed today as they were in 1982 when the first Tornado landed at the station.”
The three Tornado GR4s flew a photographic sortie that included aerial tanking with a Voyager tanker from No 10 Squadron out of RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.
Some 28 years after its combat debut in Operation Desert Storm, the RAF’s two remaining Tornado squadrons, Nos IX (Bomber) and 31 Squadrons, remain on operations in the Middle East where they are committed to the fight against so-called Islamic State.
The first of the retirement schemes was applied to Tornado GR4 ZG775 ‘AF’ of No IX(B) Squadron. It was followed by Tornado GR4 ZD716 ‘DH’ of No 31 Squadron. The ‘Goldstars’ jet was rolled out of the paint shop at RAF Marham on November 13.
Flt Lt Nathan Shawyer, 27, the last pilot to qualify on Tornado said: “I wasn’t born when the Tornado first entered service with the RAF. It was a privilege to fly on today’s training sortie which also captured fantastic imagery of this iconic aircraft. It will be a sad day for all of us when the Tornado shuts down its engines for the last time.”