The RTP’d Remains of Panavia Tornado ZA600

The stripped hulk of Panavia Tornado ZA600 after being reduced to produce or RTP at RAF Leeming in June 2016 (Image: Peter; the remains of Tornado ZA600 after RTP)

Panavia Tornado GR4 ZA600 wore a variety of camouflage schemes throughout its 33 years of service, from the early Cold War green/grey finish to the more up-to-date low visibility grey. But the strike jet was arguably best known for the commemorative tail fin which was applied in 2011, celebrating 95 years since the founding of No. 41 Squadron as a Royal Flying Corps unit at Fort Rowner in 1916. Latterly coded EB-G, ZA600 remained on charge with 41 (in its current guise as the RAF’s Test and Evaluation Squadron) at RAF Coningsby until she was withdrawn from service in 2015.

The stripped hulk of Panavia Tornado ZA600 after being reduced to produce or RTP at RAF Leeming in June 2016 2 (Image: Peter)

The Tornado’s spares-recovered hulk was later photographed awaiting disposal at RAF Leeming in June 2016. Tornado ZA600 first flew on March 18, 1982 and was delivered to the Royal Air Force the following June. Built as a GR1 model, the strike aircraft was returned to the assembly plant at BAE Warton in May 2000 for conversion to GR4 standard.

The stripped hulk of Panavia Tornado ZA600 after being reduced to produce or RTP at RAF Leeming in June 2016 3 (Image: Peter)

Of 228 Tornado GR1s delivered to the RAF, including early batch trainers for the TTTE (Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment), around 142 airframes went through the Mid Life Upgrade programme between 1997 and 2003, reemerging from the Warton facilities as vastly improved GR4s.

But as the Tornado fleet approaches retirement later this decade, airframes that have reached the limits of their flying hours and fatigue lives are constantly being withdrawn from service and scrapped. Retired jets make their final flights to RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, where they’re stripped of all useful parts in a process known as RTP (reduced to produce).

The stripped hulk of Panavia Tornado ZA600 after being reduced to produce or RTP at RAF Leeming in June 2016 4 (Image: Peter)

What’s left – as demonstrated here by the hulk of Tornado ZA600 – is little more than a hollow carcass and a stripped-out set of wings. And as we saw with ZD844, these mortal remains are then carted off to the scrapyard.

Considering what a formidable strike jet the Tornado was (and indeed still is) there’s something undeniably sad about the empty, helpless shell seen here. But in an ominous twist for those of us secretly hoping that certain withdrawn Tornados were being stored for possible future sale to museums, ZA600’s dismantled hulk wasn’t the only one dumped on wooden shipping pallets the day these photographs were taken.

The stripped hulk of Panavia Tornado ZD788 after being reduced to produce or RTP at RAF Leeming in June 2016 (Image: Peter; reduced to produce: Tornado GR4 ZD788)

Also present are the remains of ZD788 (098), a slightly younger red-spined airframe which is easily identified by its own commemorative tail fin, celebrating 40 years of the Tornado (above).

Related: Derelict Tornado GR1 Carcasses (ZA322, ZA361 & ZA375) on Marham Dump

 
 


 
 
 

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