Early Tornado GR1 Jets Meet Their End at St Athan

tornado-gr1-ttte-scrap (All images (unless stated) by Chris Corkish, Tornado-Data.com, reproduced with permission)

To date, we’ve covered the RAF’s incremental wind-down of its Panavia Tornado GR4 bomber force in various articles on Urban Ghosts, pending the fleet’s eventual replacement by the cutting-edge F-35 Lightning II. This series of images reflects where that wind-down effectively began, at RAF St Athan in Wales following the turn of the millennium, with the scrapping of twin-stick training versions of the Tornado GR1 used by the now-disbanded TTTE (Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment), and other early operational jets including GR1Bs. In addition, the scrap line includes several interim F2 interceptors, which had been used to rebuild damaged Tornado F3s – themselves now also withdrawn and recycled.





This forlorn collection of early Tornado GR1 hulks is made up of ex-TTTE airframes ZA352, ZA358 and ZA360, the first two being dual-control GR1T trainers delivered in 1980 and 1981 respectively. ZA360, meanwhile, had already lost its cockpit section, which remained in use as a ground trainer at RAF Marham in Norfolk.



Two strike jets lie side by side on the grass by St Athan’s perimeter fence, including a withdrawn 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron GR1B, serial number ZA471 (top and above, right). Most Tornado GR1Bs, used in the maritime attack role, were never updated to GR4 standard. Most have now been disposed of, though a fortunate specimen does remain on the gate at RAF Marham.


The “graffiti” taped to the side of ZA590 says it all. This ex-9 Squadron bird was retired in 2001 and scrapped the following year. Unlike the English Electric Lightning, which still looked proud after its useful parts had been removed, a stripped Tornado airframe offers few clues as to its formidable capabilities.



St Athan’s mass cull of the early 2000s also extended to the Tornado F2, the interim interceptor version that famously flew with concrete in its nose due to radar development difficulties during the 1980s.


The majority of F2s were scrapped around 2002 after being mothballed for more than a decade. The fresh-looking paintwork evident on most of these gaunt fuselages reflects years of indoor storage, where the aircraft, though cannibalised, remained in good condition.


Above, the shells of F2T ZD901 and F2 ZD940, which took to the skies in 1984 and 1985, lie alongside GR1B ZA490, which first flew in 1983 and later became a maintenance airframe. 940’s centre section had been used to repair damaged Tornado F3 ZE288.


Among the grounded, undignified carcasses was the occasional war hero. It may not look like much, but this central fuselage section belonged to Tornado GR1 ZA466, which crashed on landing at Tabuk airbase in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War of 1991. The aircraft (below) was damaged beyond repair, though fortunately the crew ejected (read more).

za466-wreck-tabuk (Image: Pinkfin1, reproduced with permission)

For a wealth of information about the Tornado, its history, production data and more, visit Tornado-Data.com.


About the author: Tom


Website: https://www.urbanghostsmedia.com



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