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Newsroom

End of an era

The team at Warton say farewell to the Tornado GR4, ZA402
After more than 30 years of service, the Tornado GR4, ZA402 retired today.

The aircraft is known at our Warton site as BS069.  It is one of a small fleet of GR4s that are flown from Warton as development aircraft in support of RAF requirements.

Residency at Warton site

Following final assembly at Warton in 1982, after a short period in RAF service, BS069 moved to Warton as a development aircraft and has been resident, on and off, ever since.

Operational use

As a GR1 aircraft, it was the first to be fitted with the Thermal Infra Red Reconnaissance System (TIRRS or Recce), which was used in theatre during Op Granby (Gulf War I). In support of this requirement the aircraft flew intensively over the Christmas period of 1990, supported by Warton’s Buccaneer tanker aircraft and a team of volunteer engineers and aircrew. This flying was used to clear the Recce system for immediate use over Kuwait and Iraq. The TIRRS recce system has also now retired.

Following its recce development the aircraft spent time with A&AEE Boscombe Down (now QinetiQ) carrying out various trials, including aerodynamic development for the new Forward Looking Infra-red Radar  fairing required for GR4.

Servicing

In 1999 -2001 BS069 underwent a Major Service as part of its conversion to an instrumented GR4A, and became part of a small family of GR4 development aircraft operated continuously at Warton.

Trials

BS069 has carried out a wide range of hardware, software and reconnaissance trials since then, including an Urgent Operational Requirement to clear Interim Precision Guided Bomb into service.

Most recently, BS069 was the prime development Tornado receiver aircraft for the RAF’s new Voyager tanker, flying some 17 sorties over the Irish Sea, receiving in the order of 100 tonnes of fuel.

Retirement to RAF Leeming

BS069 has now completed its programme of development and has retired to RAF Leeming . There is still a significant development requirement for GR4 aircraft and BS186 (ZG773) is expected to return to flying duties in the Autumn this year.