RTP Goldstars Special: Tornado GR4 ZA548 to Leeming for Disposal

Panavia Tornado GR4 ZA548 - RTP. (Image: Howard Sinclair. Tornado GR4 ZA548 reduced to produce)

Last up it was ZA453 (022), now it’s the turn of Panavia Tornado GR4 ZA548 (040) to meet the breaker. The ‘Goldstars special’ first flew on July 3, 1981 and made her final flight to RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire to be reduced to produce (RTP) on June 29, 2017 – almost 36 years from the day she first took to the air.

The RTP process sees withdrawn airframes stripped of all useful parts – to be used as spares for the remaining fleet – before their empty hulks are disposed of as scrap. With most of the RAF’s Tornado GR4 fleet having now been reduced to produce, it’s unclear how many spare parts are still required to sustain the last remaining squadrons until their out of service date in 2019.

Tornado GR4 ZA548 has been withdrawn from service and reduced to produce. (Image: Howard Sinclair)

ZA548 was built as a Tornado GR1 and upgraded to GR4 standard in 1999 during the type’s mid-life upgrade programme. She returned to service on May 19, 2000.

Based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, No. 31 Squadron (the ‘Goldstars’) is one of three remaining Tornado GR4 units (the others being 9 and 12 squadrons) in RAF service. The squadron formed at Farnborough on October 11, 1915 as a Royal Flying Corps unit.

Goldstars special Tornado ZA548 has been flown to RAF Leeming for RTP. (Image: Howard Sinclair)

Tornado ZA548 received the commemorative Goldstars tail fin in 2015 to marked the 100th anniversary of 31 Squadron. The airframe is the latest to go out of service in the ongoing draw-down and RTP process of the RAF’s last remaining Tornado strike jets. It’s unclear at this point which, if any, GR4s have been earmarked for preservation.

Hat tip: Howard Sinclair

Read Next: 21 Abandoned Airplane Graveyards (Where Aviation History Goes to Die)


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