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RAF Tornados fly last mission

06 February 2019
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On 31 January, the RAF conducted its last operational sortie with the Tornado GR4 (pictured: the last of the two aircraft to take off, bringing an end to four and a half years of the type’s involvement in Operation ‘Shader’). Source: Crown Copyright

The RAF's Tornado GR4 flew its last operational mission on Operation 'Shader' on 31 January.

A pair of aircraft flew an armed overwatch mission, each equipped with three Paveway IV dual-mode bombs, Litening III laser designator pods and 2,250-litre 'Hindenburger' fuel tanks, together with Saab BOZ and Terma AIRCM (Advanced Infrared Countermeasures) chaff/flare/decoy pods.

No weapons were dropped on the sortie, and the last weapon released by a Tornado on Operation 'Shader' was dropped on 28 January. The last mission using the Reconnaissance Airborne Pod Tornado (RAPTOR) was flown on 27 January.

The eight RAF Tornado GR4s that had been deployed to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, for Operation 'Shader' then returned to RAF Marham on 4 and 5 February.

RAF Deputy Commander Operations, Air Marshall Stu Atha, told Jane's that there were no current plans to expand the six-aircraft Typhoon element on Operation 'Shader'. He said that although No 903 Expeditionary Air Wing will no longer sustain the same tempo of operations as it did with 14 fast jets, the campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS) is moving into a different phase.

"The physical caliphate has been rolled back and the final vestiges are very small," he said, predicting that the campaign would become more of a close air support operation, in which the Reaper remotely piloted aircraft system is likely to play an increasing part.

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