Special Tail Fin of Tornado ZA461 Returns to RAF Lossiemouth

The commemorative tail fin of Panavia Tornado ZA461 returns to RAF Lossiemouth for the XV (Reserve) Squadron disbandment ceremony (Image: Alan Potts. Tornado ZA461 tail fin returns to RAF Lossiemouth)

We’ve periodically covered the ongoing RTP (reduced to produce) process of the UK’s Panavia Tornado GR4 fleet, as time-expired airframes are withdrawn from service and stripped for parts to keep remaining operational jets in the air. The last Tornados are set to be withdrawn from RAF service in March 2019 and replaced by Lockheed’s stealthy F-35 Lightning II.

Among RTP’d Tornado GR4 airframes featured recently on this website are ZA600, the old 41 (R) “Test and Evaluation Squadron” workhourse, and ZD788, which wore a commemorative tail fin marking the 40th anniversary of the Panavia Tornado. The above photograph, taken on March 30, 2017, shows the colourful tail fin of another retired GR4, serial number ZA461.

The tail fin had (presumably) been in storage since late 2015 when ZA461 made its final flight to RAF Leeming in Yorkshire to be reduced to produce, a process by which all useful parts are removed from the airframe before its hulk is dumped for scrap.

The photograph, which was taken at RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, in March, shows ZA461’s tail fin being delivered to the XV (Reserve) Squadron flight line the day before the unit was disbanded on March 31, 2017. XV Squadron was formed in 1915 and later served as the Tornado GR4 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), training crews to operate the twin-seat strike aircraft.

(Image: Mark Harkin)

ZA461 was delivered to the Royal Air Force on June 18, 1983 as a Tornado GR1. The jet was returned to BAE Systems’ facility at Warton in Lancashire on March 15, 2002 for upgrade to GR4 standard, and re-entered service in December 2002. The Tornado made its last flight to Leeming on September 10, 2015 for RTP.

The above photo shows Tornado ZA461 while still in RAF service. Her hulk has now likely been sold for scrap, but hopefully the aircraft’s commemorative tail fin (with date updated to read “1915 – 2017”) will live on.


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