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  1. ITV Report

RAF Tornado jets to mark retirement after 40 years in operation

RAF Tornado jets will mark their retirement over the next three days, after almost 40 years in operation.

The jets will be flying across the country. Credit: Press Association

There will be flypasts over our region's RAF bases, including RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, RAF Coningsby and Waddington - plus a salute to the 'Tornado' steam locomotive, which owes its name to the aircraft.

The jets will be travelling at a height of around 500ft at a speed of 360 knots (414mph).

It is part of a three-day finale flypast taking place across the country.

Taking part in the flypast, Wing Commander James Heeps, who is the boss of IX(B) Squadron, said it will be a 'sad occasion.'

It is a great privilege to be part of a national event that allows the public to say farewell to a brilliant aircraft that has been the cornerstone of our operations for so many years.

It's also a sad occasion because it will mean that from the end of next month the Tornado will never fly again."

– Wing Commander James Heeps

The Tornado will be officially retired from service at the end of March and will only be used for training purposes over the UK in the intervening period.

Nicknamed the "Tonka", the aircraft's first use in live operations was during the Gulf War in 1991, when 60 Tornado GR1s were deployed from bases in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Two years later they were upgraded to the GR4 model, which has been used ever since over the skies of Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

They will be replaced in service by Typhoon jets and a new fleet of F35 Lightning jets.