Tornado pilots
A farewell to Tornado
The team which has supported the Royal Air Force’s Tornado fleet for decades have played a crucial role in its service to the UK.
Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth, Air Officer Controlling (AOC) 1 Group which controls the RAF’s frontline fast jet fleet, paid tribute to the Tornado Force made up of RAF and industry personnel as it prepares to go out of service with the UK.
A disbandment ceremony will be held at RAF Marham, the home of the UK’s Tornado Force, on March 14 along with the final fly-past of an RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft to officially mark its departure from UK service.
It is almost 45 years since the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA), the prototype which became Tornado, made its first flight under the control of our test pilot, Paul Millett, which was followed by its entry in to service with the UK in 1980.
Air Vice-Marshal Smyth said: “Tornado is one of those aircraft which is completely in the DNA of the nation and I think it will always be there.
“It has an iconic shape, that dart shape when you see it at an air show or when it is flying along just epitomises a fast jet.
“But, when we talk about the Tornado what we really mean is the Tornado Force, the people, they are the ones which make it so good.
“It's not just the guys in the green flying suits, it's that Whole Force team from industry right through to support on the stations.”
The Tornado fleet, operated by IX (B) Squadron of the RAF, will remain ready for operations until the end of the month when officially goes out of service.
Its place in the backbone of the UK’s combat air fleet will be taken by Typhoon equipped with a suite of beyond visual range air-to-air, precision air-to-surface and deep strike weapon capabilities.
Air Vice-Marshal Smyth said: “The fact we have the Centurion upgrade on Typhoon, we are in a good place to ensure there is no capability dip.
“But, in typical Tornado Force fashion, they will be there right up until the last day should there be a need to deploy.
“My aim is we will continue that approach in to the new backbone of UK combat air with the Typhoon force.”
Tornado was designed, developed and produced by a three-nation consortium, the UK, Germany and Italy, and will remain in service with the German Luftwaffe, Italy's Aeronautica Militare and the Royal Saudi Air Force, which has operated Tornado since 1986.
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David Coates
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