Panavia Tornado GR.4 ZA461, RAF No.15 Squadron, Lossiemouth, Special Centenary Scheme
As we fast approach the Centenary year of the Royal Air Force in 2018, we can expect this significant occasion to attract plenty of media attention and form the basis of a spectacular Airshow year. In advance of these commemorations, a number of individual RAF Squadrons had already marked their Centenary years and delighted aviation enthusiasts by presenting one of their aircraft in a special commemorative scheme. Without doubt, one of the most attractive schemes applied to an RAF jet was the one that adorned Panavia Tornado GR.4 ZA461 of No.15(R) Squadron, whilst it was still based at Lossiemouth in Northern Scotland. With the impending drawdown of the remaining RAF Tornado force looming, this aircraft became something of a talismanic airframe for the ‘Mighty Fin’ and the proud service record of this magnificent aircraft. Sadly, No.15 Squadron disbanded in March 2017, ending a glorious 102 years of service with the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, whilst also bringing to an end Scotland’s long association with the Panavia Tornado. The RAFs last three remaining Tornado Squadrons are all now based at Marham in Norfolk, where they will remain until their intended service withdrawal date in 2019.
Benefitting from much of the advanced technology developed during the controversially cancelled TSR.2 project, the Panavia Tornado was a Tri-national programme to develop one of the most sophisticated all weather strike attack aircraft in the world. With three major partners developing the aircraft and sharing production costs, it was hoped that economies of scale and shared technology would allow each country to introduce a highly advanced strike aircraft that would act as a significant deterrent to the Warsaw Pact nations. With its variable geometry wings and large tail, the distinctive Tornado is all about speed and power and during a long and successful service career, it has successfully taken part in a number of combat situations, most notably during the Gulf War of 1991. With many operators looking to replace the Tornado with fifth generation fighter/strike aircraft, the days of this Cold War warrior are now numbered, but if called upon in the near future, the capable Tornado will be ready for action.