Grey, Green, and Happy

I could have sworn I had read in the history of 9 Squadron (pardon me, IX (B) Squadron) that it was going to be disbanded along with 31 Squadron on the retirement of the Tornado in March 2019, and was going to re-equip at some vague time with pilotless aircraft like the MQ-9 Reaper. Maybe that was in Wikipedia, which may account for my muddy thinking. [later – 31 Squadron will get the Reaper in about 2024. XIII, 54(R) and 39 Squadrons have it now. XIII / 13 Squadron is ex-Tornado as is 31]

IX (B) Squadron past and present. Tornado GR.4 ZG775 and Typhoon FGR.4 ZJ924 and ZJ 935 somewhere in the vicinity of RAF Lossiemouth (Royal Air Force)

This picture makes me happy on several levels. It also shows how out of touch I am with Defence policy in the UK but that’s another matter. The photo shows two Eurofighter Typhoons of IX (B) Squadron flying in formation with the beautifully painted Tornado GR.4 ZG775 in its IX (B) Squadron retirement scheme.

Imagine my surprise when searching for Tornado paint schemes (see the earlier blog post) that a well known search engine asked if I was looking for an image of a 9 Squadron Typhoon. I had to look. And lo and behold.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier taking inspection at RAF Lossiemouth earlier this year. And what’s that in the background? Green bat, WS Squadron codes. Could it be? Yes it could. IX (B) Squadron Typhoon, probably ZJ924 (RAF Official Picture)

To paraphrase a chunk of Wikipedia – No. IX (B) Squadron formally re-equipped as an aggressor and air defence squadron operating Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 aircraft on 1 April 2019, continuing in unbroken service upon retirement of the Panavia / BAe Systems Tornado.

Well that was interesting. Apparently somebody had an idea not to retire the Tranche 1 Typhoons, but to establish two new squadrons and use them in the aggressor / QRA (fighter, for old school pupils) role while the other squadrons continue in the Fighter-bomber role or whatever they call it now. Not only this, but a second squadron will use the remaining Tranche 1 aircraft at Lossiemouth and this I understand may be 12 Squadon’s latest incarnation.

I just saw an article from a UK newspaper (with thanks to my lovely sister for showing me the clipping) that things were going to be getting a little more noisy at RAF Leeming in Yorkshire, which is the home of 100 Squadron’s “aggressor” Hawks. There are some exercises coming up, the newspaper said. If the Hawks from Leeming and the Typhoons from Lossiemouth are ganging up over the East Coast of the UK I can see how this might happen. It’s funny how all these old Lancaster squadrons are coming back as 21st Century aggressors.

In a not unrelated matter, I can now stop worrying about the paint I sprayed on my very small scale Typhoon models being too light in comparison with the Tornados. See the evidence. 🙂

ZG776 and ZJ924 showing shades of grey. (Royal Air Force)

Scale

I’m doing a little bit of pictorial research for a forthcoming article, and riffling through Wikimedia Commons I found this. I think we have all seen the pictures of Stirlings towering over crews as they walk out to them, but this picture of a 149 Squadron Stirling brings home the sheer size of the RAF’s first four-engined bomber.  The serial is partially obscured,  but I think this is Austin-built W7462 being pushed out for service at (probably) RAF Lakenheath, The picture metadata gives the date as 31st December 1941. There is evidence of censorship on the image (under the belly of the aircraft,  in front of and above the crew members pushing on the port main wheel) so as to obscure any buildings in the background which might identify the base.

Short Stirling
Royal Air Force ground staff pushing a 149 Squadron Stirling Mk.I  W7462 “OJ-T” out for overhaul. (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

I searched the squadron codes and serial number, and found a little bit more information.  It would appear that W7462 met its end approximately a month after the picture was taken, probably in the early hours of 30th January 1942. The aircraft was returning to Lossiemouth, Scotland from an operational flight to Ofotfjord, Norway. On landing at Lossiemouth, the aircraft skidded on the icy runway and ran into a ditch, resulting the the collapse of the undercarriage. The aircraft was not repaired and is listed as a loss. There were, happily no fatalities.

The pilot of W7462 on this occasion was Flight Lieutenant R. W. .A Turtle, and the crew consisted of Pilot Officer D. L. Atkinson, Sergeant Collins, Sergeant Bowman, Sergeant J. D. Burnley, Sergeant Hanna, and Sergeant Smith.

Farewell Then, Tornado

Not right now, but in about 11 months, at the end of March 2019, the Panavia Tornado will retire from service with the RAF. With a front line service record that spans 36 years and something like four decades of service in the RAF, it’s a pretty staggering thought. The Tornado pretty much symbolizes the RAF of the eighties, nineties, oughts and teens.

A while ago I was looking for images of the Tornado marked with the 40th anniversary livery and haven’t found anything suitable (i.e. something that I can post with a clear conscience) yet. But I did run across this YouTube video (“Tonka Tails take to the Skies”) published by the RAF which shows five Tornadoes in September 2015 – apparently four from Marham and one from Lossiemouth – wearing commemorative schemes of their operators. I think I can see IX, 12, XV, and 31 squadrons represented, with the addition of the type 40th anniversary commemorative machine.

It’s a very short video, but nice to see, if a little poignant. Enjoy