The Tornado GR4 was given a memorable three-week sendoff at RAF Marham prior to its ‘out-of-service date’−15 March 2019. The long-serving MRCA (Multi-role Combat Aircraft) entered RAF service in 1982 as the swing-wing strike Tornado GR1. Subsequently upgraded to the GR4, it had thirty years’ nearcontinuous operational use, from 1990’s Operation Granby to the ongoing Operation Shader, which Tornados supported from RAF Akrotiri until January 2019.
Flown between 19-21 February, a series of ‘Finale’ flypasts covered three daily overflight routes of former Tornado bases, assembly, training and testing sites. The three special-schemed Tornados (see Spring Old Timers) should have flown each day but camouflaged ZG752 and No IX(B)’S Sqn’s bat-emblazoned ZG775 were unserviceable until the last day’s Scottish sortie. No 31’s goldstarred ZD716 therefore led two standard examples over the Midlands and Southern England.
On 28 February, in challenging weather, nine Tornados headed by ZG752 were launched from Marham. After heading north to salute the graduates at RAF Cranwell, they returned to base for a series of passes and a final runway photo-call. Crewed by Squadron Leaders Ian Dornan and Stephen Beardmore, the camouflaged Tornado made its last in-service flight at the second Enthusiasts Day on 8 March. The same personnel flew standardmarked Tornado GR4 ZA463 at No IX(B) and 31 Squadron’s disbandment ceremony on 14 March. Three low and fast wingsswept passes were made, the last finishing with a spearing zoomclimb into retirement.
The last RAF Tornado GR4 ZA463 landing at Marham on 14 March
The RAF'S final formation of Tornados on 28 February, led by camouflaged ZG752