A phased reduction of the UK Royal Air Force’s fleet of Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft has taken its latest step, with two frontline units having been stood down on 28 March.
The service’s 12 and 617 squadrons ceased operations with a disbandment ceremony conducted at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, which from mid-2014 will instead become home to its Eurofighter Typhoon-equipped 1 and 6 squadrons, which are to be relocated from RAF Leuchars.
“Both squadrons have delivered precision air power around the world, whether that be in air-to-air combat, air-to-ground attack or in the intelligence-gathering role. We are proud of our heritage but we look to the future,” says AVM Stuart Atha, Air Officer Commanding the RAF’s 1 Group.
Known as “The Dambusters”, 617 Sqn will be reformed in 2018 as the UK’s first frontline unit to operate the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II. Some personnel from 12 Sqn, meanwhile, will be retained at Lossiemouth to support operations with the Typhoon.
The latest unit retirements leave the RAF with operational Tornado GR4 squadrons only at its Marham base in Norfolk. Its 15 Sqn operational conversion unit for the type will remain at Lossiemouth until 2018, with its last examples currently expected to leave use during 2019.