Tornado ZA407, Marham’s Gate Guard, in the Snow

Panavia-Tornado-GR1-ZA407-Marham-Gate (Image: Paul Johnson, reproduced with permission)

The shiny appearance of this Panavia Tornado GR1, dramatically mounted atop a plinth on the main gate at RAF Marham in Norfolk, has led some to suggest the aircraft is actually a full scale replica. But this retired strike jet – serial number ZA407 – is very much the real thing. First flown on March 30, 1983, ZA407 was among 26 GR1B variants tasked with carrying the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile, before being withdrawn from use on November 22, 2001. Issued the maintenance serial 9336M, the retired jet became the gate guard at Marham, one of two main bases set to operate the Tornado GR4 until 2018.

Panavia-Tornado-GR1-ZA407-Marham-Gate-Guard (Image: Paul Johnson, reproduced with permission)

Of 228 Tornado GR1 airframes delivered to the Royal Air Force, 142 were updated to GR4 standard during a mid-life upgrade between 1997 and 2003. But ZA407 wasn’t among those chosen, despite several older machines continuing to operate from Marham and Lossiemouth today. Like other passed-over GR1s, the jet was destined for ground use or ultimately scrapping. Thankfully the main gate called and, as a result, when the GR4 fleet is retired later this decade, ZA407 could become one of only a handful of GR1s to escape the acetylene torch.

About the Tornado GR4B

The GR4B model Tornado was introduced during the early 1990s to replace the aging Blackburn Buccaneer as the RAF’s dedicated maritime strike aircraft. A total of 26 GR1s were converted to GR1B standard, most being early airframes first flown in 1982 or 1983. Of these, 11 were converted to GR4(B) standard during the mid-life upgrade. According to, two of the original 26 were twin-stick trainers, both of which were grounded when the remaining GR1 fleet was withdrawn.

Fleets Within a Fleet

tornado-za404-rtp-4 (Image: Brian Hodgson, reproduced with permission)

Another example of a “fleet within a fleet” was the Tornado GR1A reconnaissance variant, later upgraded to GR4A, as illustrated by the recently retired workhorse ZA404 (above).

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