GR.4 ‘Tonka’ for Honington – 11 More to be Preserved

BRIEFING ROOM

The three specially painted Tornado GR.4s on one of the type’s last training sorties.
(CROWN COPYRIGHT/CPL LEE MATTHEWS)

AN RAF spokesman has told Britain at War that Tornado GR.4 ZG752 is destined for display at RAF Honington.

Currently sporting a special heritage camouflage scheme as part of the Tornado farewell, the aircraft will be moved by road to the Suffolk base following its retirement, where it will serve as a gate guard. Another example is expected to go on display at the former RAF Cottesmore in Rutland, and BAE’s site at Warton in Lancashire is reportedly receiving an airframe for preservation. The Tornado – or ‘Tonka’ – fleet is expected to be withdrawn late this March, after 40 years of frontline service.

It was back in January that the air force announced (during a media event at RAF Marham) that it intended to preserve up to 12 GR.4s from the current fleet.

Currently, just two GR.4s are on public display. The first, a prototype airframe, can be found at the Yorkshire Air Museum. The second is housed at Imperial War Museum Duxford.

Three specially-painted GR.4s were exhibited at the farewell event, ZG752 in its much loved scheme, and two others wearing the markings of 31 Squadron RAF, which currently flies the GR.4, and 9 Squadron, the first operational Tornado unit.

Entering service in 1979, the Tornado has flown in interceptor, anti-ship and strike roles. The veteran fighter-bomber has been the RAF’s primary aircraft of choice for ground-attack missions since the First Gulf War, when the type had its combat debut.

The GR.4 iteration first saw action in the 2003 Iraq War – its capabilities will be adopted by the multi-role Typhoon FGR.4.