Saying goodbye to the ‘warhorse of the Royal Air Force’

One of three RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft with a specially painted livery to commemorate their retiremen

One of three RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft with a specially painted livery to commemorate their retirement from service, comes in to land at RAF Marham in Norfolk. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Tornado jets are set to take off from RAF Marham next week as part of a finale flypast tour.

RAF Marham Station Commander, Group Captain Cab Townsend. Picture: Ian Burt

RAF Marham Station Commander, Group Captain Cab Townsend. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

After nearly 40 years of active service, the fighter jets are being retired and station commander group captain Ian Townsend thinks Norfolk should be proud of the part they played in the Tornado's success.

'The Tornado is the warhorse of the Royal Air Force (RAF),' he said. 'She was always there, she always answered the call and the finale tour is a celebration of that.'

The flypast tour begins on Tuesday, February 19 and will last for three days, with three separate routes planned, each with three aircraft. Weather permitting, it will take place in more than 30 locations across the nation.

Each location has been specially chosen for showing support to the Tornado over the years.

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Group captain Townsend said: 'It has been challenging to choose the list of locations as we can't fly over every location and every person that has helped and supported the Tornado, but we hope as many people as possible can get to each location and wave as the formation passes.

'We're in a phase now where we are all celebrating saying goodbye. It's going to be incredibly emotional, not just for those in the cockpit but for those on the ground as well.

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'I am sad to see the Tornado go. The GR1 was flown and focused on the cold war and conflicts in north and east Europe and today's aircraft [the F-35 Lightning] has vastly different capabilities.'

Another celebration for the warplane is planned, with a nine-plane flight due to take place on February 28, taking a route over RAF College Cranwell, where a graduation for the next RAF officers will be taking place.

Group captain Townsend wants Norfolk to be proud of how they have helped the Tornado over the last 40 years and to share in the celebrations.

'When formations are flying over the locations Norfolk should be proud of how they have supported the Tornado over the years,' he said. 'West Norfolk deserves to share some of the limelight as well.'

The tour begins next Tuesday, February 19 when a Tornado will take off from Marham, before flying to locations all over the country. On Wednesday, February 20 the route continues to RAF Honington and Imperial War Museum Duxford, among many others.

The RAF said timings will be published next week.

The full route:

Tuesday, February 19

RAF Cottesmore

National Memorial Arboretum

SECA Stafford

RAF Cosford

RAF Shawbury

DECA Sealand

RAF Valley

BAES Warton

BAES Samlesbury

RAF Spadeadam

RAF Leeming

RAF Topcliffe

RAF Linton-on-Ouse

RAF Waddington

RAF Cranwell

RAF Coningsby

RAF Donna Nook

RAF Holbeach

Wednesday, February 20

RAF Honington

IWM Duxford

Former RAE Bedford

Cranfield Airfield

RAF Halton

RAF High Wycombe

RAF Benson

HQ Land Forces

MOD Boscombe Down

RAF Pembrey

MOD St Athan

Cardiff Airport


Abbey Wood

MOD Shrivenham

RAF Brize Norton

Thursday, February 21

Leuchars Station

RAF Tain

RAF Lossiemouth

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