In the Pink (Part 2 - Tornado!)

Please note that there has been some updating and correcting of the captons in this In Focus.  An additional image has also been added, courtesy of our own M. Hopper.

The second In Focus this month features the Tornado GR, a key part of the UK strike force in Desert Storm with aircraft being drawn from Nos 2, 7, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 27, 31 and 617 squadrons. Although able to self-designate only two of the required TIALD thermal imaging pods were available in theatre.  Further, due to their size once the seeker-heads were fitted, the laser guided 1,000lb Paveway II LGBs could only be carried under the Tonkas fuselage.  Consequently, weapon loadouts became rather challenging.

To maximise their bomb carrying capability and add an element of flexibility, additional laser designating was required to support the Tornado squadrons utilising these precision munitions and now operating at medium level.  The solution was to call up 12 aircraft from the venerable Buccaneer fleet. Using laser targeting pods (AVQ 23E Pave Spike) and acting as “buddy” designators, this move also necessitated the application of the iconic pink camouflage to the Buccaneers.  The Buccaneers were extremely successful and as the war developed and the experience of the detachment grew they turned into a stand-alone designator/bomber force.

The photos presented were taken by our David Draycott during the summer of 1991 and are considered to be representative of the fleet upon their return to the UK following the cessation of hostilities.  It is evident from the mission markings and the state of the paintwork, that some aircraft were extremely busy during the war.

Other air forces adopted “desert” paint schemes too, including the Italians on their own Tornado fleet; 23 airframes were sprayed in a transparent yellowish colour with only 16 of these participating in the hostilities.  A system of rotation was employed, meaning only 10 aircraft were in theatre at any one time.  The aircraft were drawn from 6 Stormo/154 Gruppo, 36 Stormo/156 Gruppo and 50 Stormo/155 Gruppo.

As a final comparison, a shot of the anniversary/retirement scheme featured on Tornado GR4 ZG750 is included which although representative of the desert scheme doesn’t seem to be the right shade!  This aircraft didn’t feature in Desert Storm; all Tornado’s in the Gulf conflict were either GR1s, GR1As or grey ADV F3s.

From a modeller’s perspective, plenty of manufacturers include shades of “Desert Pink” in their colour ranges and, as with the real aircraft, there seems to be a broad variation, allowing ‘modellers license’ to prevail!

One of the best references on Gulf War operations and the participants is “Gulf Air War Debrief” published by Aerospace Publishing/World Air Power in 1991 and edited by Stan Morse, ISBN 1 874023 14 X.  The website is also an excellent source of reference for modelling all aircraft which participated in Desert Storm.

Hopefully this second set of images will encourage you to have a go at reproducing an unusually weathered, fully loaded, modern fast yet.  Good luck and happy modelling!

Tornado GR.1T ZA410 ‘EX’ was the first of nine ‘twin stick’ aircraft modified to act as buddy tankers which in the event were not used and kept in reserve. It is seen here looking rather pristine at Fairford in July 1991. Photo © D. Draycott.

Tornado GR1 ZA492 ‘FE’ at Mildenhall in May 1991, not long after the cessation of hostilities, complete with shark mouth and variety of mission markings. Note the loadout of iron bombs and AIM-9, all with a blue band to signify ‘dumb’ training rounds. Photo © D. Draycott.

Tornado GR1 ZA492 ‘FE’, four months later at Finningley in September 1991. The aircraft appears to have been repainted and as a result all the Desert Storm markings have gone as have the bombs. Photo © D. Draycott.

Tornado GR1 ZA447 ‘EA’ named “Mig Eater” departs Woodford in June 1991. This aircraft destroyed a landing MiG29 while discharging the contents of its JP233 pod over an Iraqi air base. Although this slide has a bad case of ‘celluloid fungus’ we thought it worth including. Photo © D. Draycott.

Tornado GR1 ZA452 ‘GK’ “Gulf Killer” at RAF Brawdy in 1991 still with its shark mouth. Note the large number just behind the wing; this '267', which was its Paris Air Show Number. Photo © D. Draycott.

Tornado GR1 ZA465 ‘FK’ at Fairford in 1991. “Foxy Killer” flew the most missions of any Tornado in Desert Storm, 44 in total. Photo © D. Draycott.

Tornado GR1A ZA395 ‘N’ was one of two aircraft to carry the title “Snoopy Airways”. Unfortunately, by the time it was photographed at RAF Brawdy in 1991 all Desert Storm decoration had been removed. See the recently added additional photo below for the other "Snoopy Airways" aircraft. Photo © D. Draycott.

Tornado GR4 ZG750 ‘128’ at RIAT, Fairford in 2017 having been painted in a ‘desert pink’ colour to celebrate 25 years of Tornado GR Operations. Photo © D. Draycott.

Tornado IDS MM7070 ‘70’ at Fairford in 1991. There appears to have been a good deal of respraying since Desert Storm, particularly the nose. Squadron codes and badges have also been reapplied. Note the dual tone drop tanks. Photo © D. Draycott.

Courtesy of our very own Malcolm Hopper here is ZA491 'GC' showing its "Snoopy Airways' titling, pictured in September 1991 and still looking very 'war weary' indeed. Photo © M. Hopper.