Preserve “Pinky”: Campaign to Save Tornado GR4 ZG750

Panavia Tornado GR4T ZG750 aka "Pinky" (Image: Steve Tron). Panavia Tornado GR4 ZG750 aka “Pinky”)

With ever more Tornado GR4 airframes going out of service and being disposed of via RTP (reduced to produce, or spares reclamation and scrapping), a campaign is underway to save the most distinctive ‘Tonka’ in the RAF fleet.

The petition was launched in a bid to preserve Panavia Tornado ZG750, which has been nicknamed “Pinky” by enthusiasts due to her iconic desert camouflage scheme. The special paint job was applied to mark the Tornado GR variant’s 25 years on operations, beginning with Operation Granby, the name given to British military involvement in the 1991 Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm).

Tornado ZG750 taxis to the runway threshold (Image: Steve Tron. Tornado ZG750 taxis to the runway threshold) 

During that conflict a force of around 60 Tornado GR1 strike jets were hastily repainted in the now iconic ‘desert pink’ camouflage and deployed to air bases at Muharraq in Bahrain and Tabuk and Dhahran in Saudi Arabia. Six Tornados were lost during highly dangerous low-level combat missions against Iraqi airfields and other military targets. Five aircrew members were killed.

In the late 1990s the Mid-Life Update (MLU) got underway, which saw around 142 of the original 228-strong RAF Tornado force upgraded to GR4 standard, integrating state-of-the-art weapons and avionics packages. The MLU was completed in 2003, and the jets have been constantly upgraded ever since.

Pinky, a comparatively young Tornado airframe (delivered to RAF service on July 31, 1991), has become a coveted sight for aviation enthusiasts and photographers looking to snap a picture of the jet thundering through the likes of the ‘Mach Loop’ in Wales at low level.

Panavia Tornado GR4(T) ZG750 "Pinky" on the static line at RIAT 2017 (Image: Steve Tron. Tornado GR4 ZG750 “Pinky” on the static line at RIAT 2017)

The petition, which is titled “Retire Tornado ZG750 ‘Pinky’ to the City of Norwich Aviation Museum”, reads:

“Tornado ZG750 ‘Pinky’ is the most unique and beautiful Tornado in the Royal Air Force fleet. As such, she deserves a good home. Some of you may have heard that she is planned to go to RAF Leeming in the next week or two to be scrapped, or ‘RTP’ as they call it. (Reduced to Produce, robbed of spare parts essentially). We want to give Pinky the home she deserves at the City of Norwich Aviation Museum, as this is one of the best facilities for both her history and preservation.”

In addition to aircraft preservation, Norwich Aviation Museum aims to highlight the aviation history of Norfolk, including RAF Marham, Pinky’s home base. At the time of writing ZG750’s page has received 1,744 of 2,500 signatures required for the case to be heard. To help in the bid to save this iconic jet for future generations, you can sign the petition here and connect on Facebook.

Update: Soon after this article was published, Pinky departed RAF Marham for the final time en route to RAF Leeming for RTP. There, she’ll be stripped of all useful spares and sensitive military equipment pending disposal. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the end. We’re still hoping that, once all required parts have been removed, ZG750 may follow in the footsteps of ZA452 at the Midland Air Museum, Coventry, which is currently the only production Tornado GR4 to be preserved.

Update: Unfortunately it would seem that, despite the campaign’s best efforts, Pinky is set to be scrapped. According to this post on Facebook, ZG750 is poised to go through the RTP process like other withdrawn Tornado GR4 airframes to provide spares for the active fleet. Let’s hope that, with Tornado numbers dwindling at an increasing rate as we approach out of service in 2019, Pinky and a small number of others can be saved for the nation from the scrap man, even if every useful spare is stripped off these important pieces of aviation history in the meantime.

UPDATE: A recent photograph (see here) sadly shows Pinky undergoing RTP at RAF Leeming. Unusually (and not least due to the time of year), the process looks to be taking place outdoors, rather than inside the hangar. Whether there’s any chance the major pieces will be saved for preservation (as was the case with Granby veteran ZA452), or whether ZG750’s hulk is carted off for scrap, remains to be seen.


About the author: Tom





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