British RAF donates Tornado to WA museum

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The Tornado served for decades in the UK until it was replaced by the F 35. RAF
The Tornado served for decades in the UK until it was replaced by the F-35. (RAF)

The British Royal Air Force has donated one of its retired Tornado GR4s to WA’s Aviation Heritage Museum.

It will be displayed from 26 June and will be the only Tornado on display in Australia. The aircraft type was first delivered to the RAF in 1992 but was best known for serving with the legendary 617 Squadron responsible for the ‘Dam Buster’ bombing raids over Germany in 1943.

The exact aircraft delivered to the museum has the tail code AJ-T, which commemorates the Lancaster of US pilot Joe McCarthy.

Ian Craig, who oversees the museum, told Airline Ratings the project to obtain the Tornado has been ongoing for three years.

“There have been hundreds of hours put into this,” said Craig. “We are so lucky to have been chosen as the only museum outside the UK to have a GR4 on display.”

The original Tornado was a Multi-Role Combat aircraft (MRCA) that first entered service in 1979. It was subsequently upgraded to the GR4 model, which featured a heads-up display, better cockpit displays, night vision, and GPS.

It was designed in the Cold War to penetrate Soviet air defence at low level and was jointly developed by the UK, West Germany, and Italy. It was officially retired from the RAF in 2019.

The museum’s website revealed, “On Thursday 19 May the Tornado’s fuselage, wings and fuel tanks were transported to the Museum. The transport of these components relied upon two semi-trailers, a 100-tonne crane and forklift.

“On Monday 23 May, the final items of the Tornado were transferred from RAAF Base Pearce to the Museum in Bull Creek, including the fin (tail) and engine. A semi-trailer and forklift were again involved in this operation.

“These very special items are currently being stored at the Museum, awaiting the arrival of the specialist RAF JARTS (Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron) team to construct the Tornado, ahead of its grand unveiling.

“A seven-member JARTS Team from the UK will be responsible for the construction of the Tornado from 13 to 21 June.”

It is arguably best known for being flown by 617 Squadron, formed at short notice to fly a special mission to breach four huge dams on the river Ruhr.

The delicate objectives involved dropping  bombs from Lancasters at exactly 220mph and 60ft above the water in order to effectively skim across the surface.

Some 19 Lancasters undertook the mission, with eight not returning. However, the mission was a relative success, with two of the four dams, Mohne and Eder, breached.

WA’s Aviation Heritage Museum also has a Lancaster on display, alongside other warbirds such as a Canberra, Catalina and Spitfire.

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