Bonkers Tonkas: UK sets Tornado retirement date

There has been a fair bit of uncertainty for a while now about the likely shape and size of the UK’s future combat aircraft fleet, but the Ministry of Defence’s planners appear to have resolved at least part of this, according to BAE Systems.

Contained within the company’s lengthy half-year results statement on 2 August was the following gem: “The out-of-service date for the UK Tornado fleet has been confirmed by the MoD as March 2019.”

Tonka 560.jpgWith the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon community still having a long way to go to providing a credible multi-role capability (we can only really call that once the jet has the ability to use Paveway IV, Brimstone and Storm Shadow, like the Tornado GR4 can today – Crown Copyright image above), considerable pressure rests with the Lockheed Martin F-35B.

The UK last month accepted its first test example of the short take-off and vertical landing type, and is in theory expected to receive up to 138 operational examples; although few believe its defence budget will stretch that far. And with land-based operations only due to commence in the UK in 2018, there’ll be precious little room for error as the Tornado flies out of use.

You can see my full report here, including an update on BAE’s Tornado upgrade activities for Saudi Arabia. For anyone unfamiliar with the swing-wing beauty, it has the UK nickname “Tonka” – don’t ask me why though!

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