Posted: Wed 20th Feb 2019

Another Tornado arrived in Sealand yesterday – but this one is here to stay

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Feb 20th, 2019


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Hundreds of people gathered near the former RAF base at Sealand on Monday afternoon to watch three of the RAF’s iconic Tornado jets perform a farewell flypast.

With almost 40 years of Royal Air Force service coming to an end, the jets are undertaking a series of finale flypasts around the UK this week.

The three Tornado’s taking part in Monday’s leg of the farewell tour left RAF Marham in East Anglia at 1pm.

The jets flew west to the Midlands taking in several RAF bases and MoD sites including the National Memorial Arboretum, RAF Cosford and Shawbury, making their way across Shropshire and into North Wales.

Passing directly over Hawarden Aerodrome the three fighter jets flew at around 500ft above the Defence Electronics & Components Agency (DECA) within the grounds of the former Sealand air force base at 1.38pm.

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Great photo of the three Tornado jets over Sealand on Tuesday afternoon. captured by Ben Stacey #TornadoFarewell

A post shared by Deeside. com (@deesidedotcom) on

Stuart Case, Director of the Tornado Heritage Centre at Hawarden Aerodrome served in the RAF with the Tornado, he was pleased the three jets flew over the aviation park on the way to Sealand.

Stuart had asked the team at RAF Marham to route directly over the airfield rather than slightly to the north as initially planned, he said:

“I’m very pleased that they are able to fly directly over our facility at aviation park, a huge thank you to the navigators Ross Fuller and Si Tofric for doing this as it is no doubt made a lot of people in North Wales very happy.”

I’m sure I echo the thoughts of many people around this country who are very sad to see the end of the Tornado era.

It is still a very capable aircraft but considering it entered service in 1983 it has served the country in many theatres of war around the world and we should be very proud of the Panavia Tornado.”

A New Gate Guardian for Sealand

While most eyes and lenses were trained to the skies above Sealand for the flypast a fourth Tornado was arriving at the gates of DECA.

The dismantled jet was packed onto the back of two low-loaders, they had made a slightly slower journey to Deeside by road from RAF Marham in East Anglia.

ZA607 a Panavia Tornado GR4 had until recently been operated by 31 Squadron the ‘Goldstars’ at Marham, although the jet still wears the markings of its former user 41 Squadron based at RAF Coningsby.

[Tail section of ZA607 being unloaded on Tuesday at DECA Sealand – Photo by Phil Pritchard]

The jet has been donated to DECA Sealand by the RAF and will serve as ‘Gate Guardian’ at the site which has provided repair, overhaul and upgrade services for the Tornado avionics equipment over the years.

Sections of ZA607 were unloaded from the transporters during the course of the day and into the evening, an RAF crane was on hand to lower the fuselage onto the roadway.

It’s understood the fully reconstructed jet will take up its new role later this week after being positioned on a specially constructed platform, it will form a symbolic display of “guarding” the main entrance to the Sealand site.

[Fuselage of ZA607 being unloaded on Tuesday at DECA Sealand – Photo by Phil Pritchard]

Ian Doughty, DECA Support Services Director said

“I am delighted to confirm that the Panavia Tornado GR4 Gate Guardian has arrived at our Sealand site and the RAF are currently undertaking works for its installation.

DECA has a long and illustrious history for providing support not only to the Tornado fleet during its service, but also to wider UK Armed Forces and we are extremely proud to be able to reinstate a Gate Guardian at Sealand for the whole community.”

DECA Sealand has been chosen as the global repair hub for the Tornado replacement, the F-35 Lightning II – a fifth generation multirole fighter.

Components for hundreds of European-based F-35’s will be serviced and maintained at Sealand securing hundreds of highly skilled jobs and millions of pounds worth in investment in the region.

 

ZA607 captured flying through ‘Mach Loop’ in North Wales in October last year.

 

Sealand is, of course, no stranger to Gate Guardians, a Supermarine Spitfire LF.16e was stationed by the East camp main gate at the RAF base between 1969 and 1988.

Spitfire TD248 later registered as G-OXVI went on to be fully restored to flying condition in 1992 by Historic Flying Limited in Duxford.

It was substantially damaged in a landing accident at Duxford Airfield in 2001, the pilot was uninjured.

A photograph taken in 2014 shows the old Sealand Gate Guardian flying in formation with two other Spitfires, it’s unknown if TD248 is still flying today.

A Hawker Hunter ‘transonic’ jet fighter replaced the Sealand Spitfire in 1988, it first entered service with the Royal Danish Airforce in 1956 with ESK-724 Squadron.

It remained in active service until 1974 when it was bought back by Hawker Siddeley to become a Gate Guardian’ at RAF Brawdy in Pembrokeshire.

[Airliners.net]

It was later moved to RAF Cranwell and then, in 1988, to RAF Sealand where it was cosmetically restored and repainted in 1990 as WT720 – the real WT720 was retired in 1964 and scrapped.

The Hunter was taken away and was last spotted for sale on Ebay in 2016 with a ‘Buy it Now‘ price tag of £24,995.

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