A special Royal Air Force Tornado GR4, painted in ‘desert pink’ colours as a tribute to Operation Granby in 1991, has been retired as the type enters its final chapter in service, as Rich Cooper reports.


In 2016 the Royal Air Force’s Tornado GR Force (TGRF) painted one aircraft – ZG750 – in a ‘desert pink’ scheme to mark 25 years of continuous combat operations. It was a nod to the 25th anniversary of the United Kingdom’s participation in Operation Desert Storm, codenamed Operation Granby by the British armed forces. Granby marked the combat debut of the then Panavia Tornado GR1s, which provided a vital part of the coalition that helped to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces. The RAF Tornado GR1s were painted in ‘pink’ Alkali Removable Temporary Finish (ARTF) to reduce their visual signature in the desert environment. Following this baptism of fire, the RAF Tornado ‘GR’ fleet – now in upgraded GR4 standard – has been engaged in combat operations almost constantly ever since.

In April 2019 the RAF will retire its last Tornado GR4s as they make way for Eurofighter Typhoons and F-35B Lightning IIs to spearhead UK combat air power. This summer, the time came for ZG750, dubbed ‘Pinky’ by many, to be retired. July’s Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, presented the ideal opportunity to showcase this particular jet’s history and pedigree, with ZG750 being one of the stars of the show. As the Tornado touched down at RAF Fairford it had just 10hrs of flying time left on the service log before being flown from RAF Marham, Norfolk – the last RAF Tornado base – to RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, to be reduced to spares under the Reduce to Produce (RTP) programme. This successful project has cannibalised Tornados to help provide a cost-effective spares source with which to maintain the remaining machines in service.

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