Operations

United Kingdom

IDS

The first unit to receive the Tornado was the TTTE at RAF Cottesmore on 1st July 1980. The British air crews, once qualified on the type at the tri-national training facility, were posted to the TWCU (Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit), formed on 1st August 1981 at RAF Honington, where they learned to use the Tornado as a weapons platform. The first operational front line squadron to receive the Tornado was 9th Squadron at RAF Honington, reformed for the occasion on 1st June 1982, followed by 617th Squadron (1st January 1983) and 27th squadron  (12th August 1983), both based at RAF Marham. With the role of developing the best operational attack tactics, the RAF established at 1st September 1983 the TOEU (Tornado Operational Evaluation Unit) at RAF Boscombe Down, subsequently re-designated the SAOEU (Strike/Attack Operational Evaluation Unit). Amongst other duties the unit was engaged in the development of the best tactics for target acquisition and attack procedures. 

The first Tornado was assigned to RAF Germany on 1st November 1983, delivered to 15th Squadron at RAF Laarbruch, while 16th and 20th Squadron received their first aircraft on 29th February and 29th June 1984, replacing the Buccaneers. Furthermore, the three attack squadrons based at RAF Brueggen, 14th, 17th and 31st Squadrons, replaced the Jaguar fighter bomber, while the last squadrons of RAF Germany to convert to Tornado was the II Squadron based at RAF Laarbruch in December 1988. With the end of the “Cold War”, the attack forces assigned to RAF Germany were progressively reduced, with the disbandment of numerous units and the closure of the two Tornado bases on German territory, the remaining squadrons taking their aircraft back to bases in the United Kingdom with concentration of operational units now at Lossiemouth in Scotland and Marham in east England.

Squadron Version Base Operations
2nd Squadron GR.1/1A Laarbruch 1988-1989
2nd Squadron GR.4 Marham 1989-
9th Squadron GR.1 Honington 1982-1986
9th Squadron GR.1 Bruggen 1986-1998
9th Squadron GR.4 Marham 1998-
12th Squadron GR.4 Lossiemouth 1994-
13th Squadron GR.1/1A Honington 1989-1993
13th Squadron GR.4 Marham 1993-
14th Squadron GR.1 Bruggen 1985-2001
14th Squadron GR.4 Lossiemouth 2001-
15th Squadron GR.1 Laarbruch 1983-1991
15th Squadron GR.1 Honington 1991-1992
15th Squadron/OCU GR.4 Lossiemouth 1992-
16th Squadron GR.1 Laarbruch 1983-1991
17th Squadron GR.1 Bruggen 1984-1999
20th Squadron GR.1/1A Laarbruch 1984-1992
27th Squadron GR.1 Marham 1983-1993
31th Squadron GR.1 Bruggen 1984-1999
31th Squadron GR.4 Marham 1999-
45(r) Squadron TWCU GR.1 Honington 1981-1992
617th Squadron GR.1 Marham 1982-1994
617th Squadron GR.4 Lossiemouth 1994-
SAEO GR.1 Boscombe Down 1983-
DRA GR.1 Boscombe Down 1983-

ADV

Considering the ADV Version, the first fighter aircraft Tornado were delivered in September 1984 to 229th Operational Conversion Unit. The first front-line unit to be equipped with the definitive F.3 version was 29th Squadron at RAF Coningsby, in February 1987, following successively by the last two units operating the Lightning, 5th and 11th Squadron, which received their first F.3s in January and July 1988. In the course of the following years 23rd, 25th, 43rd, 56th and 111th Squadron were equipped with the ADV, gaining the new aircraft until May 1990. The last unit receiving the Tornado F.3 was 1435 Flight, based at Mount Pleasant airport in the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, replacing the last Phantom QRA with four fighters in July 1992.

The Tornado ADV was retired from operational service with the RAF in 2011 due to planned replacement by the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Squadron Version Base Operations
5th Squadron ADV F.3 Coningsby 1987-2003
11th Squadron ADV F.3 Leeming 1988-2005
23rd Squadron ADV F.3 Leeming 1988-1994
25th Squadron ADV F.3 Leeming 1989-2008
29th Squadron ADV F.3 Coningsby 1987-1998
43rd Squadron ADV F.3 Leuchars 1989-2009
56th (r) Squadron ADV F.3 Leuchars 2003-2008
65th (r) Squadron/229 OCU ADV F.3 Coningsby 1984-1992
111th Squadron ADV F.3 Leuchars 1990-2011
1435th Flight ADV F.3 Falkland 1992
229th OCU/56° Squadron F.2/3 Coningsby 1984-2003