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.
Regardless of your political views, France, the UK and the U.S. pulled off a remarkable joint effort from a military standpoint in their punitive operation against Syria on Saturday. In short, three aviation task forces from three different countries, a submarine, and four naval surface vessels coordinated an attack against three different and heavily defended land targets, with zero losses to friendlies.
The Russians say most of the incoming cruise missiles were shot down, but bomb damage assessment doesn’t hold up to that, although the kitchen sink was apparently thrown into the air around Damascus and Homs. CENTCOM says they tracked 40~ Syrian SAMs fired into the air, with zero hits on aircraft or incoming weapons.
Five French Rafale jets loaded with a pair of SCALP-EG cruise missiles, covered and supported by five Mirage 2000-5F fighters, two E-3 AWACS, and six C-135FR tankers. The Rafale landed 9 SCALPS, two on the Him Shinshar storage site and 7 on the Him Shinshar CW bunker. This came while the French Navy (Marine Nationale) conducted the first ever operational strike involving the new MdCN (Missile de Croisiere Naval) naval cruise missile (the naval version of SCALP), firing 3 of the weapons from the Aquitaine-class multipurpose frigate Languedoc (D653) at the Him Shinshar CW storage site (west of Homs):
Two B-1Bs, deployed to Al Udeid AB from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., employed 19 Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER), marking the first combat employment of the weapon. The JASSMs were targeting the Barzeh CW research and development center in Damascus
The Navy fired 7 TLAMs from USS Laboon (DDG-58) and 30 more from USS Monterey (CG-61) from the Red Sea while USS Higgins (DDG-76) let 23 TLAMs loose from the Northern part of the Persian Gulf, and the Virginia-class submarine USS John Warner (SSN-785) launched 6 more Tomahawks from the Med. In all, some 66 TLAMs– 57 directed at Barzeh and 9 at the Him Shinshar CW storage site.
The Brits, using aging Tornados, got some Storm Shadow cruise missiles in at the Him Shinshar CW storage site– the only site hit by all three Allied nations.
Four Royal Air Force Tornado’s took off this morning from RAF Akrotiri to conduct strikes in support of Operations over the Middle East, firing eight Storm Shadow missiles
The Tornados, flown by 31 Squadron the Goldstars, were supported by a Voyager aircraft.
At 0200 UK time on 14 April, British forces joined close Allies in a precision strike on Syrian installations involved in the use of chemical weapons.
The UK element of the carefully coordinated joint action was contributed by four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s. They launched Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility – a former missile base – some fifteen miles west of Homs, where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapon precursors stockpiled in breach of Syria’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Very careful scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target the Storm Shadows to maximize the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimize any risks of contamination to the surrounding area. The facility which was struck is located some distance from any known concentrations of civilian habitation, reducing yet further any such risk.
As of note, the RAF turned 100 years old on April 1st.
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.