(Image: Paul Lucas; Tornado GR4 ZA453 over Bruntingthorpe, 2015)
ZA453 (022) has become the latest Panavia Tornado GR4 to be ‘reduced to produce‘ at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire. The airframe, which first flew on March 17, 1983 and was delivered to the RAF four months later, made her final flight last week (June 15th) from her base at RAF Marham in Norfolk to Leeming for RTP. The retired strike jet will now be stripped for parts and her empty hulk disposed of for scrap.
ZA453 was originally built as a Tornado GR1 and converted to GR4 standard in 2003 as part of the type’s Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) programme. The airframe also took part in Operation Granby, the name given to British military operations during the 1991 Gulf War. She’s was photographed back in the UK (here) wearing ‘desert pink’ and the tail code ‘EG’, and fitted with a replacement intake part from a grey/green camouflage jet.
Tornado ZA453’s last trip to the breaker reflects the dwindling numbers of GR4s in the RAF fleet. The type will remain in service until March 31, 2019. Below is a photograph of a former 41 (Test and Evaluation) Squadron Tornado, ZA600, showing what ZA453 may look like after completion of the RTP process. (You can read more about ZA600 here.)
Hat tip: Howard Sinclair