The RAF will commence the drawdown of its Panavia Tornado-GR4 fighter force on 31 March, armadainternational.com has learned, when the jet’s training unit will disband.
15(R) Squadron located at RAF Lossiemouth airbase in northern Scotland, is the Tornado Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), which prepares pilots for front-line operations with the aircraft. The last two courses are currently coming to a close. The so-called ‘Long Course’ that started in May 2016 ends late this February and has two students, including the last ab-initio pilot to progress to the Cold War-era jet. The shorter Refresher Course, lasts two months and will finish in late January, leading to two pilots being ready for operational duties.
Wing Commander Paul ‘Zig’ Froome, the officer commanding of the OCU since May 2015 told armadainternational.com: “The decision to disband the OCU was on the basis that it would generate enough crews for the three front line units through to 2019. Right now, we are ‘cliff-edging’; pushing students right to the end so the force is set up for its final two years.”
The RAF Tornado-GR4 aircraft are heavily involved in the UK’s Operation SHADER, its contribution to US-led multinational operations directed against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) insurgent movement, flying from RAF Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus, supporting ground troops in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. It is likely they will continue the mission for the foreseeable future, possibly up to March 2019, when the jet is retired, according to media reports.