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TORNADO GR.4

Tornado GR.4 ZG771 with the canopy open outside hangar 1 of the Ulster Aviation Society

Image: MARK J. CAIRNS

Meet the magnificent Tornado GR.4 ZG771 fastjet, a true icon of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and a proud member of our Heritage Collection.

The Tornado GR.4 ZG771 (nick-named "the Tonka") has a rich and storied history, serving with distinction in the RAF for several decades, and is an extraordinary aircraft that has captured the hearts of aviation enthusiasts and visitors from around the world.

 

This exceptional aircraft played a vital role in various military operations, showcasing its impressive speed, agility, and firepower. 

Tornado GR.4 ZG771 with full after-burners

It soared through the skies, protecting the nation's interests and ensuring the safety of countless lives. Today, it stands as a symbol of the RAF's strength and dedication.

To the Ulster Aviation Society, the Tornado GR.4 ZG771 is a cherished gift from the RAF, a testament to the enduring bond between our organisations. We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to preserve and share this remarkable piece of aviation history with the public.

The aircraft has become one of the star attractions of the UAS’ Heritage Collection, drawing visitors of all ages, from young families seeking adventure to aviation enthusiasts eager to experience its awe-inspiring presence.

Tornado GR.4 ZG771 being towed by volunteer John Weir with a Ferguson TEA-20 tractor at the Ulster Aviation Society

Image: MARK J. CAIRNS

The dedicated Tornado Cockpit nose, another prized possession of the UAS, is an essential part of our outreach efforts. Our dedicated Events team of volunteers takes it on the road, venturing out to shows and events to provide a unique experience for the local public.

Visitors have the incredible opportunity to step inside the Tornado Cockpit Nose, feeling the thrill of sitting pilot's seat and imagining the exhilaration of commanding the skies in the real aircraft next to it in the hangar.

While the Tornado GR.4 ZG771 stands proudly in our collection, its restoration journey is not yet complete. We still need to reinstall the powerful pair of Turbo-Union RB199 jet engines (below), ensuring that the aircraft is restored to its full glory.

Turbo-Union RB199 jet engine, a pair of which go in a Tornado GR.4 fighter jet

Image: MARK J. CAIRNS

The media has taken notice of our remarkable Tornado GR.4 ZG771. Its presence at the UAS garnered significant news coverage, capturing the imagination of aviation enthusiasts and history buffs alike. 

The story of its acquisition and restoration has been featured in local and national publications and its arrival brought a TV film crew from UTV for the day, sharing the excitement and significance to a wider audience.

The special Centenary "Good-bye" Tail on Tornado GR.4 ZG771, originally from RAF Marham

Image: MARK J. CAIRNS

Whether you're a curious tourist looking for something to do for a few hours on your trip, an avid aviation enthusiast, or simply someone with a thirst for exploration, we invite you to visit the Ulster Aviation Society and experience the magic of the Tornado GR.4 ZG771 fast jet.

Two visitors were lucky enough to experience the real Tornado GR.4 cockpit when it was taken out of the UAS hangars

Image: MARK J. CAIRNS

Front view of the Tornado GR.4 ZG771 at the Ulster Aviation Society

Tonka power!

Image: MARK J. CAIRNS

Tornado GR.4 — ZG771 arrives at the UAS

Originally meant to be delivered in April 2020 but scuppered due to the first Covid-19 lock-down and subsequent pandemic, the Ulster Aviation Society finally took ownership of Tornado GR.4 ZG771 on 29th September, 2021, after it was generously gifted by the RAF.

The ground reconnaissance aircraft arrived by road from England, carried in parts by a convoy of five lorries to its new home to the UAS' home in Maze Long Kesh.

Tornado GR.4 ZG771 after its first day of re-assembly in Sept 2021 by the RAF JARTS team

Tornado GR.4 ZG771 after its first day of re-assembly in Sept 2021 by the RAF JARTS team

It's one of the very last of the flying GR.4 with the special Black "Goodbye" tails from RAF Marham.

 

A specialised JARTS (Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron) unit were tasked with rebuilding it over a week to allow its front-of-house display at the UAS' hangars.

Tornado GR.4 ZG771 arrives at the Ulster Aviation Society hangars to be reassembled by an RAF JARTS team

Tornado GR.4 ZG771 arrives at the Ulster Aviation Society hangars to be reassembled by an RAF JARTS team

Tornado GR.4 ZG771 at an airshow in England

Championed by Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, former head of the RAF’s Tornado Force, and patron of the UAS who originally came from Donaghcloney in Co. Down.

“From a heritage standpoint, it’ll be good to see the Tornado there, considering all the good that the Aviation Society does. It’s an aircraft that provided 40 years of good service to the country,” he said.

“To me, this was too good an opportunity to miss.”

Very few GR.4's have been delivered to museums in the UK and ZG771 is the first one to be ‘gifted’ to a non-national collection.

History of the Panavia Tornado GR.4

On 26th March 1969 four nations UK, Germany, Italy and Netherlands formed a multi-national company PANAVIA AIRCRAFT Gmbh to develop and manufacture a Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA).

 

In 1970 Netherlands withdrew and the remaining three countries set up a tri-national company, Turbo Union to develop and manufacture the RB199 engine.

1st prototype flew Manching Germany 14th August 1974 with the 2nd prototype XX946 flying from BAe Warton 30th October 1974, in all 19 development aircraft flew with 2 lost in accidents and 1 badly damaged.

The RAF received their first of 228 GR.Mk1 on 1st July 1980 at RAF Cottesmore and by 1st June 1982 No IX(B) squadron became the first front line Tornado squadron worldwide and operated the aircraft to the squadron disbandment 14th March 2019 with the retirement of the Tornado 31st March 2019.

 

The second Squadron No 31 followed and was deployed to RAF Germany bases Laarbruch, Bruggen and as more aircraft delivered Harrier and Jaguar aircraft gave way to Tornado equipping these squadrons.

Tornado GR.4 ZG771 on the taxiway

Tornado GR.4 evolution from GR.Mk1

In 1991 the Tornado went to war in the first Gulf War 49 GR. Mk1 and 18 F.3 and where successful but lost 6 aircraft on missions.

 

During this time a mid-life upgrade was underway and 142 GR.1’s were upgraded between 1997 and 2003 with a Avionic installation which after completing the aircraft was designated a GR.4.

 

The GR.1 stayed on until superseded by the upgraded GR.4.

Initially in 1990 GR.1’s supported operations in Kosovo operating from RAF Germany bases until redeploying to Corsica again these GR1’s superseded by the GR.4.

 

In 2003 in the Iraq invasion GR.4’s operated alongside American forces in the opening phases and stayed operational until re-deploying in June 2009 to Afghanistan and continuing operations up to November 2014.

 

In that period flew 5,000 pair sorties, over 33,500 hours including 600 hours “show of force”.

Forward Cockpit of the Tornado GR.4 ZG771 at the UAS

Forward Cockpit of the Tornado GR.4

70 engagements and some 140 Brimestone missiles, Paveway IV bombs deployed and some 3,000 27mm cannon shells fired. 18th March 2011 Tornado’s where deployed to Cyprus to enforce the No Fly Zone in Libya.

 

Several Tornado’s flew 3,000mi strike missions inside Libya which where the longest range bombing missions conducted by the RAF since the Falklands conflict. Tornado’s where stationed in Cyprus until February 2018 and whilst there carried out missions to both Iraq and Syria.

On 10th July 2018 9xGR4’s from RAF Marham participated in the London flyover to celebrate 100years of the RAF.

 

To celebrate 40years of Tornado service and to mark the type’s retirement several flypasts were carried out 19:20 on 21st February 2019, and on the 28th February 2019 a Diamond 9 formation flew over the graduation parade at RAF Cranwell.

Rear Cockpit of the Tornado GR.4 ZG771 at the UAS

Rear Cockpit of the Tornado GR.4

The last official flight of a Tornado was operated by the oldest serving airframe ZA463 piloted by Squadron Leader Ian Dornan (from Northern Ireland and a member of the UAS!) and Squadron Leader Stephen Beardmore over RAF Marham on the disbandment of No IX(B) Squadron 14th March 2019.

 

The Tornado was finally retired 31st March 2019.  The main squadrons to operate the Tornado were Nos 2, 9, 13,14, XV reserve, 31 and 617.

 

A intercept version ADV aircraft was developed along side the strike IDS and first prototype a F.2 flew 15th March 1984 but serious problems with the Foxhunter radar the F.2 did not go operational but undertook a training role until the F.3 flew 20th November 1985 when all 18 F.2’s mothballed.

 

The F.3 went on to operate with the last 3 aircraft retired on the 9th July 2012 after service in the first Gulf War, Bosnia and Iraq war. A total of 160 F.3 IDS variant were built.

Footnote: The German Air Force, Italian Air Force and RSAUDI Air Force still operate Tornado variants.
Tornado GR.4 Side View Drawing
Manufacturer: 
Panavia Aircraft GmbH

Model: 

Tornado GR.4

Operating Life: 

1991 ~ 2019

Registration: 

ZG771

UAS Location: Hangar 1





Served with: RAF

Maximum Speed:
1,500mph at 30,000 ft / 
Mach 2.2 / 921mph
near Sea Level


Range: 860 miles

Engines: 
2 x Turbo-Union RB199-34R MK 103

Service Ceiling:
50,000ft (15,240m)

Ordnance:
27mm Mauser BK-27 cannon (180 rounds);  AIM-132 ASRAAM Air-to-Air missiles


Length & Height:
16.72m (54ft 10") x 5.95m (19ft 6")


Variable-sweep Wing:
25 degrees ~ 67 degrees

Wingspan 25-deg.:
13.91m (45ft 8")

Swept Wingspan 67-deg.:
8.60m (28ft 3")​

Rate of Climb: 
77m/s (15,100ft / min)
Tornado GR.4 Plan View Drawing
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