As the Tornado is retired from the RAF this month, the Fund's very own Tom Cruise aka Area Director Baz Dale looks back on his RAF career which included four tours on this fearsome aircraft.
I got my fast-jet wings in 1992 at RAF Valley, back when I had more hair! Following that I undertook the Tri-National Training Establishment (TTTE) at RAF Cottesmore in 1994.
My first full tour flying the Tornado was with 12 (Bomber) Sqn from 1995 to 1997, flying the Tornado GR1 and GR1B. During this posting I flew on Op WARDEN (no fly zone over northern Iraq) as well as joining up with Navigator Andi McColl who was the first female fast-jet navigator on the Tornado GR1.
I went on to work with her on 617 Sqn, to XV (R) Sqn, then later as a Flight Commander on XV Sqn.
My second tour I flew on the famous Dambusters Squadron, 617, from 1997 to 2000. During which time I took part in Op JURAL and Op BOLTON (no fly zones over southern Iraq) and Op DESERT FOX (over southern Iraq).
By the end of the tour I had flown 63 sorties over Iraq and grown an impressive moustache.
My third and fourth tours were with XV (R) Squadron, firstly from 2000 to 2003 working with the Tornado GR1 and GR4 operational conversion unit and then in 2005 to 2007 when I returned as Flight Commander.
Having flown four tours and more than 1,500 hours on the Tornado GR1/4, based at RAF Lossiemouth, I witnessed the transition from 'dumb' 1000lb bombs to Paveway LASER-guided bombs. The Fin, as the Tornado was known, was the state-of-the-art bomber when I joined the RAF.
She has evolved hugely over the years, and has coped well in medium-level environment for which she was not really designed. A fast-jet aircraft with terrain-following radar and autopilot, the Tornado will always be best remembered as a superb low-level interdiction bomber that was at home 'down in the weeds'. It was my privilege to have flown her.
It is the end of an era.
By Baz Dale