Combat jet that completed counter-IS operations goes on display at museum
Pilot says Typhoon jets, which will leave service in 2019, will be regarded as ‘unsung heroes’ of the RAF.
A combat jet used in counter-Islamic State operations in the Middle East and described as an “unsung hero” of the Royal Air Force has gone on display at a museum.
The Tornado GR4, from RAF Marham in Norfolk, has been in service for 27 years and is being exhibited at IWM Duxford near Cambridge, in its Battle of Britain exhibition, as it nears the end of its service life.
All Tornadoes are being taken out of service in 2019, and aircraft ZA469, which is on display, was one of the last Tornadoes to be flown operationally.
It deployed to Afghanistan between 2011 and 2014, helped enforce a no-fly zone over Libya in 2011 and most recently took part in counter-IS operations in the Middle East.
Flight lieutenant Kieran Gilroy, who has piloted the aircraft, described the Tornado as a “real workhorse” and said that it would be regarded as an “unsung hero” of the RAF.
“It will never be treated with the same level of respect as a Spitfire or a Hurricane say, but for what it’s done it’s given fantastic service to the country and it’s been a real workhorse,” he said. “In 27 years it’s been on almost constant operation somewhere in the world, other than for a few weeks, it’s been non-stop.
“In terms of value for money it’s really been great but I think it’s going to be one of those unsung heroes that’s done the work but actually won’t probably get the credit that it deserves.”
The 30-year-old pilot, who is based with 9 Squadron at RAF Marham, said it was “really good fun” to fly the jet which is capable of breaking the sound barrier if needed.
He said his father had served in the air force before him, flying Hunters then becoming a civilian pilot.
Flt Lt Gilroy first piloted a Tornado at 26-years-old and has completed more than 70 missions.
He said it was “quite nostalgic” to see the Tornado that he has piloted in a warzone move into a museum.
“It makes me feel a bit old,” he said. “But it’s nice and it’s great that it’s going to be preserved for the general public to see for hopefully many years to come.”
The work of the Tornadoes will be taken over by the faster and more agile Typhoons, which are already in service, and modern F-35 jets are soon to enter service.
Flt Lt Gilroy said it will be “very sad” when Tornadoes are taken out of service next year, adding: “It will be a bit of an end of an era with the Tornado as it has been a fantastic aircraft.”
IWM Duxford said that in the coming years it would work closely with those who had worked with Tornadoes to collect and tell their stories.