Thirty-seven years after No IX Squadron, RAF became the world’s first operational Panavia Tornado unit, the type made its final flight in British service at RAF Marham, Norfolk, on 14 March at the disbandment parade for Nos IX and 31 Squadrons. Single examples from each unit made flypasts for the 850 guests, two weeks after a formation of nine Tornado GR4s from both squadrons flew over Marham and Cranwell, Lincolnshire in overcast conditions during another of the type’s retirement events.
No IX Squadron took delivery of its initial Tornado GR1, ZA586, at Honington on 6 January 1982. The first sortie was made on 6 April, the unit becoming fully operational on the type on 1 June. No 31 Squadron had been operating the aircraft since 1984.
The reviewing officer at the disbandment parade, ACM Sir Stephen Hillier said, “Today is a time to rightly recognise the truly exceptional achievements of the people who have been the Tornado force. We reflect on the courage, skill, commitment and sadly sometimes sacrifice of those who have been at the heart of the Tornado story, from its inception through to the present day.”