Published 29th March 2019.
At the end of a long career with the Royal Air Force, DE&S bids farewell to an aircraft that it has helped keep in the air beyond its original end-of-service date – the iconic Tornado
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Emotions were running high at RAF Marham on 14th March, when the iconic Tornado aircraft touched down for the last time.
Nicknamed ‘Tonka’, the fast jet has been retired from service after almost 40 years serving the UK on military operations across the world.
DE&S colleagues joined more than 800 guests who witnessed the disbandment parade of the last two remaining Squadrons No IX(B) and 31 Sqn b, followed by a final flypast. They were joined by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, DE&S CEO, Sir Simon Bollom, and Director Combat Air, AVM Keith Bethel.
First entering service in 1979, Tornado have been used in operations across the world, most recently bombarding Daesh as part of Operation Shader, pushing the terrorist group back through Syria and Iraq. In February, the fast jets took part in a farewell flypast covering the length and breadth of the UK.
“I was a 15-year-old Air Cadet working at Blackpool Airshow in 1976 when I first saw the Tornado prototype perform a flypast…it was a glimpse of the future.”
Phil Melia, CASP Performance Reporting for Tornado and Lightning for DE&S, said: “I was a 15-year-old Air Cadet working at Blackpool Airshow in 1976 when I first saw the Tornado prototype perform a flypast. Back then, it was called the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft and it was a glimpse of the future.
“I first worked on Tornado in 1998 when I took over the calculation of Tornado Fatigue consumption at RAF Wyton. In 2002 I joined the Tornado IPT, initially in the Fleet Management team, moving to RAF Marham in 2011.
“I will always remember looking out of my office window seeing armed Tornado taking off on Operation Ellamy in 2011, knowing they would be in a conflict zone few hours later. Things like that bring what we support a lot closer to home.”