The multi-role Panavia Tornado– of which some 992 aircraft were built in three variants (air defense, strike, and EW/recce) for the RAF, Luftwaffe/Marineflieger, Aeronautica Militare, and Royal Saudi Air Force– first flew in 1974 and was a Cold War icon.
However, out of production since 1998, these sexy variable-sweep wing aircraft are now aging and, increasingly, being put to pasture.
The Germans have been whittling their fleet down since the Berlin Wall fell (and took the naval birds down almost immediately) while they currently plan to decommission the last strike units flying the bird in 2025. The Italians have 62 of 100 they received and are adding Typhoons and F35s to the force over the next decade to eliminate those.
The RAF, in whose service the bird was nicknamed the “Tonka” for its ability to carry truckloads of bombs during the Gulf War and strikes over Bosnia, has completed their last combat missions for the big strike fighter, as it is on its last days with the Brits.
On the 31st of January 2019, the RAF operated the final operational sortie of the Tornado GR4. The aircraft (ZA601/066 and ZA542/035) took off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
After almost 40 years serving the UK on military operations across the world, iconic RAF Tornado jets has returned home for the last time.
First entering service in 1979, the fast jets has been used in operations across the world, most recently bombarding Daesh to push the terrorist group back through Syria and Iraq.
The weapons capabilities of the soon-to-retire Tornados are now being delivered by RAF Typhoon jets, which will continue to take a leading role in the Coalition’s mission against Daesh. Under ‘Project Centurion’, worth £425million over the past three years, the Typhoon can now also launch the world-leading Meteor air-to-air missile, the Stormshadow deep strike cruise missile and the precision attack missile Brimstone.
These improved RAF Typhoon jets will form the backbone of the UK’s combat air fleet, alongside the recently introduced new fleet of F-35 Lighting jets over the coming years.
The last to fly the Tornado is likely to be the Royal Saudi Airforce, who still have 81 IDS variants in service, many of which are over Yemen at any given time. Although F-15S/SA Strike Eagles will likely replace them, don’t count on the Saudi’s to sideline these reliable sluggers until after the whole Yemen thing stops being a thing– which is no time soon.
Here we see a beautifully restored Ferret Scout Car of the Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum in their typical UN livery.
Some 4,409 Ferrets of all kinds were made between 1952 and 1971 by the UK company, Daimler, and widely used not only by the British Army but also that of the Commonwealth. This included some 124 by the Canadian Forces, first acquired in 1954 to replace the Otter and Staghound armored cars of the WWII era.
The first armored unit used in UN peacekeeping was made of Canadian Ferrets.
Assembled from components of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps the unit was dubbed the light-armored 56th Reconnaissance Squadron (56 RECCE), named for the year they were founded. They were outfitted with 23 Ferrets (seen below in a National Defence photo from the Canadian War Museum) as part of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF).
The 105 officers and men drawn from the Royal Canadian Dragoons and Lord Strathcona’s Horse arrived in Egypt in March 1957 and set up their base in Rafah, from where they patrolled the northern section of the 130-mile long demarcation line between Egypt and Israel. They were armed for self-defense (mounted .303 Bren guns; Sterling SMGs and Browning-Inglis Hi Powers for dismounts) but patrolled in the middle of an uneasy truce, with undisciplined soldiers on each side of the boundary, and unmarked minefields.
While firefights were slim, the ever present danger of mines– often moved by local Bedouins directly in the path along the line in the hopes of knockin out vehicles they could salvage for scrap– was not. In the first year, Lieut. Charles Van Straubenzee was killed when his Ferret rolled over, and Trooper George McDavid when his Ferret struck a buried mine. 56 RECCE was disbanded in 1959 but the use of the Ferret by Canadians in peacekeeping did not.
By 1964, they were in Cyprus.
Their final disposition included 23 used as targets, 14 donated to museums or converted to monuments, and 84 sold (unarmed) as surplus.
As for the Ferret in general, they are still used in Pakistan, Nepal and a few other countries friendly to the UK in the 1960s including the former colony of Saint Kitts and Nevis, where three vintage Ferrets form the entire armored corps of the Carribean islands’ defense force.
When Turkish Cypriots in the southern coastal city of Limassol left area during the highly volatile 1974 war that split the Mediterranean island of Cyprus along ethnic lines, they left behind more than 400 cars, trucks and vans that have been quietly rusting away at the British military base in Episkopi for the past 42 years.
From the Washington Post:
The vehicles have sat since inside this wind-swept, fenced-off field for safe-keeping. But the relentless Mediterranean sun and humidity, coupled with a huge brushfire that swept through the field 15 years ago, have turned more than half of them into little more than rusting hulks.
Now, base authorities are hoping to reawaken the interest of owners — either in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot northern part of the island or abroad — to reclaim the vehicles before their disposal starts next year.
“We have to make the effort to give them back before we start disposing of them, it’s the proper thing to do,” said Ian Brayshaw, a British Bases official in charge of the project.
The overwhelming majority of the vehicles are of little value other than scrap metal. But there are a few gems that could be worth some money, including the aluminum-framed Land Rover Mark 1 and a decrepit Volkswagen Beetle that is said to be worth as much as 2,000 euros ($2,230) despite its condition, Brayshaw said.