Tornado Tails Take To The Skies

Royal Air Force Marham saw a historic event last month as four of its Tornado GR4 aircraft, alongside a fifth aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth, took part in a routine training sortie with a twist.

Four of the jets carried a special centenary painted tail fin commemorating the 100th anniversary of each individual squadron with the fifth jets tail fin celebrating 40 years of the Tornado.

The first Squadron to pass the 100 year mark was Number IX(B) Squadron who were formed at St Omer in France on the 8th December 1914. As the pioneers of night flying the squadron were given their motto Per Nocto Volamus (Throughout the Night We Fly) and their famous green bat, which was the night camouflage colour, is depicted on the tail fin.

The second jet was from Number 12(B) Squadron who celebrated their centenary on Valentines Day this year. They were formed at Netheravon on 14 February 1915. In 1926 they took delivery of the Fairey Fox aircraft which gave them their emblem of the fox, as depicted on their tail fin, and their motto ‘Lead the Field’ in recognition of their development of daylight bombing tactics.

The third jet from Marham was from 31 Squadron who are also known as the Goldstars. They are the youngest of the three Squadrons whose anniversary is due later this year on 11th October 1915. Their tail depicts the Gold Star of India which is in recognition of them being the first operational military unit in Indian skies assisting the army in dealing with tribal unrest hence their motto ‘First in Indian Skies’.

The last aircraft from Marham was the jet displaying the 40th Anniversary tail fin which was commissioned in 2014 to mark 40 years of the Tornado.

The four aircraft left Marham for the routine training sortie and met up with the fifth aircraft from XV Sqn, the operational conversion unit based at RAF Lossiemouth. XV Squadron were formed in Farnborough on 1st March 1915. Their tail fin depicts the Hinds Head from their squadron emblem. The original emblem of a Harts head was modified to the Hinds head in 1927 to depict the aircraft that was in service at that time.

The tail fin designs were the culmination of work between our industrial partner SERCO and the individual squadron’s. The tradition of painting tail fins remains a time honoured way in which to commemorate important milestones in the RAF’s history. SERCO, the surface finishing specialists based at RAF Marham liaised very closely with the squadrons to produce a unique design for each individual tail fin. Once the designs were finalised and authorised the aircraft went to the SERCO paintshop for the work of art to be created.

Group Captain Rich Davies, Station Commander of RAF Marham flew the 40th anniversary jet and led the sortie from RAF Marham. He said “ It was with a huge sense of pride that I was able to lead this unique formation of aircraft each celebrating their 100 years. It is amazing to think that there are four squadrons, flying the same type of aircraft, that will commemorate their centenary’s within 12 months of each other. This is definitely something that will never be repeated. Each individual squadron has is own strong and varied history but collectively they come together as one Tornado Force which is still delivering on Operations today across the globe as they did a century ago. The aircraft may have changed greatly over the years but the ethos and teamwork which draws the squadrons together is the same today as it was for squadron members 100 years ago.