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.
Common among snipers the world over today, the ghillie suit or bush suit, traces its origin to Scottish gamekeepers with a Scotland-raised yeoman regiment, the Lovat Scouts, using them for the first time in modern combat in the Boer War.
These Highlanders, drawn largely from outdoorsmen, were described as “half wolf and half jackrabbit” in their tactics when down in the veldt and the suit draws its name from the Gaelic faerie Gille Dubh, a forest character clad in moss and leaves that hides among the trees. The use of “scrim” often from repurposed potato sacks, helped break up their outline.
What is scrim?
Scrim is nothing but a basic fabric that has a light, almost gauzy weave to it. It’s used in bookbinding (that woven fabric in the back of hardcover books), theatre and photography (to reflect light), and in simple industrial applications like making burlap sacks.
The suits became widespread in sniper use in the Great War. Take this superb example in the IWM under review:
Here is another.
And a third:
When the Second World War came in 1939, the Brits fell back on what worked.
The practice continues across MoD today, using low-IR fabric to keep down detection by modern optics, because if it ain’t broke…
Here we see, in this image from the Imperial War Museum, RFC armorers issuing Lewis guns with Lewis and Vickers ammunition to observers and pilots of No. 22 Squadron at the aerodrome at Vert Galand, 1 April 1918– some 99 years ago today. This was during the time of the German Spring Offensive that year.
I say April Fools because the Lewis very often froze on these brave young men as their flying machines reached altitude. The only ways to solve this problem were as follows: a) fire a few rounds every so often to keep your barrel warm and mechanism moving; b) carry a small hammer in your cockpit with which to pound on your gun if it iced up, or c) carry your magazine inside your flying clothes to keep it warm.
Formed in 1915 on the Western Front, No. 22 Squadron gratefully flew Bristol F.2 fighters at the time of the above photo, which was armed with a synchronised fixed, forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun which, though it had its own troubles, was more reliable than the Lewis, which was used by the rear seat observer on a Foster mount.
With the motto Preux et audicieux (French: “Valiant and Brave”), No. 22 Squadron stood down in 2015 after 100-years or service which includes a VC awarded to Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell for executing a torpedo attack on the German battlecruiser Gneisenau in Brest harbor during WWII. Campbell, notably, was killed in that attack on 6 April 1941 though he was nobody’s April Fool.
The MoD has released that the MBDA Stormshadow cruise missile has been used effectively in combat for the first time in combat against ISIS, dropped from Cyrpus-based Tonkas.
Debuted in 2002, the 2,800-lb long range (300nm) air to surface missile is based on the legacy Apache anti-runway missile and the UK purchased 900 of the weapons. Rather than the submunitions of the Apache, Stormshadow has a 990-lb. two-stage warhead is made up from an initial shaped charge, which cuts a passage through armor, concrete, earth, etc., allowing a larger following warhead to penetrate inside the target.
In short, it’s a good standoff bunker buster.
The only other combat use by RAF has been by Panavia GR4 Tornadoes of No. 617 Squadron in the 2003 invasion of Iraq where 27 of the cruise missiles were used against hardened command and control bunkers.
Since then the French have used them in Syria while the Italians broke theirs out in Libya. It is also believed that the Gulf States (who between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE bought over a 1,200 of the devices) have used them sparingly in Yemen.
From this week’s release :
Intelligence had determined that Daesh were using a large concrete bunker in western Iraq as a weapons facility. Due to the massive construction, built during the Saddam era, it was decided to use four Stormshadow missiles against it, as the weapon has particularly good capabilities against such a challenging target. The missiles were launched on Sunday 26 June by two Tornados, all four Stormshadows scored direct hits and penetrated deep within the bunker.