(Image: @PlaneDailyMag. Special 617 Squadron ‘Dam Busters’ tail fin from Tornado ZA412)
Back in 2013, Panavia Tornado GR4 ZA412 (fleet number 017) was a staple of the airshow circuit, suitably adorned with special tail fin art to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Operation Chastise, the famous ‘Dam Busters’ raid of May 1943, carried out by the modified Lancaster bombers of No. 617 Squadron. Two years later, in July 2015, ZA412 made her final flight to RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire for RTP (reduced to produce), a process by which all useful spare parts are salvaged before the redundant hulk is scrapped. And as a visit to the inaugural Scampton Airshow this month revealed, one salvaged item was the special 70th anniversary Dam Busters tail fin, which is now displayed in the RAF Scampton Heritage Centre with other 617 Squadron memorabilia.
(Image: MilborneOne. ZA412 poised for takeoff at RIAT 2013)
ZA412 first flew as a Tornado GR1 in March 1983 and was delivered into Royal Air Force service two months later. In April 2001 the aircraft was entered into the Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) programme at BAE Warton in Lancashire and returned to service as a Tornado GR4 in November of that year.
Tornado ZA412 was a twin-stick trainer version of the highly successful Panavia strike jet and, despite being fully combat capable, would not be used on ops. For that reason she was one of two 617 Squadron airframes (the other was ZA492) chosen for application of the commemorative tail fin artwork, marking the 70th anniversary of Operation Chastise.
Over the summer of 2013, ZA412 became one of the most photographed Tornados in the RAF fleet. After service with 617 she was transferred to No. XV (Reserve) Squadron, the Tornado Operational Conversion Unit, at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, before being withdrawn from service on July 2, 2015.
Following the RTP process her mortal remains would have looked something like this (or this), but it was great to find that superb tail fin displayed in a Scampton hangar, the same airfield where the Lancasters of No. 617 Squadron flew from on that daring operation decades earlier.
ZA492, meanwhile, met her fate two months before 412, having been flown to Leeming in May 2015 to be reduced to produce. What became of her tail fin is unknown, though hopefully it too will have survived the shredder.
(Image: @PlaneDailyMag. It’s all in the fine print!)
At least one other special fin to survive belonged to ZA461. Scrapped in 2015, her tail fin was pictured earlier this year on return to Lossiemouth to mark the disbandment of XV Squadron after the last Tornado GR4 course had successfully graduated. The last remaining jets are set to be withdrawn from service in early 2019.
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