Text: Serge Van Heertum & UK Mod - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum, Pierre Taquet, Philippe Decock & other as mentioned
Translation: Marc Arys - © sbap 2019
 
The last day of the Tornado GR4 in RAF services was foreseen at the end of March and our team planned a 3 day trip in the County of Norfolk, most precisely at Marham to immortalize the last day of this iconic aircraft. Sadly the plans of the Royal Air Force and Marham airbase authorities were changed and this famous last day took place on March 14th. As our trip was planned, we just paid a visit to the home base of the 617 Squadron to witness the replacing aircraft in action, the famous Lockheed-Martin F-35B Lightning II.
We saw only two of the four aircraft currently in service, but we can say that this is an impressive aircraft showing what the modern aeronautical technology is all about. But what we can also underline is the real unusual noise when this aircraft is using the short landing process. It's clearly the start of a new era for the Royal Air Force, but also for all countries that have chosen the Lightning II, as Belgium did a few months ago.
    
  
Some lines about the highly appreciated Tornado
  
Taxi for the last 9 ship formation flight on March 14th
(Courtesy RAF Marham© via FB)
Beautiful and emotional picture
(Courtesy RAF Marham© via FB)
 
Some lines about the highly appreciated Tornado

Having entered frontline service with the Royal Air Force in 1982, the Tornado GR has assembled an unparalleled service record. It has been in constant combat action since 1991, and these very same aircraft still provide the backbone of the RAF's precision strike force. You will not be able to find a combat aircraft in any air force around the world that has offered the kind of value for money the Panavia Tornado GR4 has done for the RAF.
The very same airframes that entered service as GR1's way back in 1982 are still right at the leading edge of British airpower projection all these years later in Operation "Shader" in the Middle East. They have been upgraded heavily, and many of the early jets where retired or reduced to parts to help resource and maintain the dwindling remaining fleet of around 30 aircraft in the last operational months.
Ultimately, upgraded through "Project Centurion", Eurofighter Typhoons and F-35B Lightning IIs will replace these old warriors as from now.

 
The 9 Tonado in a perfect box formation
(Courtesy RAF Marham© via FB)
The 3 last special paint together for posterity
(Courtesy RAF Marham© via FB)
 
Supreme Striker

The last Tornado model was a world away from the original Tornado GR1's that joined No IX (Bomber) Squadron way back in 1982.
The main improvements relate to weaponry and the targeting pod. The transition from TIALD (Thermal Imaging Airborne Laser Designator) to the Litening III RD (ROVER datalink) pod, and the move from the Enhanced Paveway II (EPW2) class weapons to the Paveway IV means that the GR4 was able to keep at the very vanguard of precision strike capability. Although the airframe externally hasn't changed, the RAF has bolted on to it and the software that beats in its soul have kept it relevant and potent. A constant set of refinements and mission specific enhancements has continued to trickle down to the TGRF over recent years. However, with the ultimate retirement, major upgrades have petered out.

The Weapons Systems Officer (WSO) still commonly referred to unofficially as navigator was installed in front of a large central screen in the rear cockpit that came about as a result of the Tornado Advanced Radar Display and Information System (TARDIS), which replaced the old circular moving map with a new radar processor and digital map.

Ultra's Secure Communications on Tornado (SCoT) radios provide for robust communications and the long awaited Tactical Information Exchange Capability (TIEC) datalink was also found across the fleet and includes the data Link 16 with an Improved Data Modem (IDM).

The Tornado Collision Warning System (CWS) was a new Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS). In one word, the Tornado was essential in the UK maintaining a capability to have a complete kill chain : find, fix, track, target, and assess afterwards.

 
Tactical break above Marham runway
(Courtesy RAF Marham© via FB)
The last Tornado crews...great job guy's
(Courtesy RAF Marham© via FB)
 
No one can argue with the combat pedigree of the Tornado GR4:

From Operation "Granby" (1990-1991 Persian Gulf War), through the following years of Iraqi no-fly zones, Operations "Jural" (Part of Operation Southern Watch between 1992 and 1998) and "Desert Fox", Operation "Allied Force" over Kosovo, Operation "Telic" (March 2003 until May 2011) and the enduring Iraqi mission, Operation "Herrick" (June 2002 until December 2014) in Afghanistan, Operation "Ellamy" (March 2011 until October 2011) over Libya, Operation "Shader" over Syria and Iraq (Military intervention against ISIL since September 2014), not to mention various other vital missions. The Tornado has earned an unequalled place in the RAF history books.
The Tornado GR4 will bow out at the very top of its game. It's the best it has ever been. It has been deployed operationally since 1990 and has been in combat action 24/7, 365 days a year every day since.

  
 
When the past and the future is flying together
(Courtesy RAF Marham©)
  
  
The newcomer: Short history of the F-35B Lightning II
  
Lockheed-Martin's Lightning embodies capabilities based on thinking developed through evolving requirements since at least 1983, when the US Navy launched its advanced tactical aircraft (ATA) program to find a stealthy replacement for the Grumman A-6 intruder. That same year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began its Advanced Short Take-Off / Vertical Landing (ASTOVL) effort, looking to develop a supersonic successor to the Harrier concept.
Two classified programs ran under ASTOVL, which was always intended to produce information of value to the US and the UK. The STOVL Strike Fighter (SSF) research ran from 1987 to 1994 and examined the feasibility of creating the necessary technologies for a stealthy, supersonic STOVL fighter, while the Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF) program ran for just a year from 1993, combining the ASTOVL and SSF work into a single effort to provide a Harrier replacement specifically for the US and UK.
Meanwhile, ATA had suffered insurmountable technological and financial challenges and closed down in 1991. In 1990, however, the US Navy had already turned his attention to replacing the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, for which requirement the USAF's Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) was seen as potential basis. The proposal was examined as the Naval ATF, but dismissed in 1991 as too expensive (ATF ultimately evolved into today's Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor).

The USAF had begun a replacement program of its own in 1990; the Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) was to succeed the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. By 1992, MRF was also being considered as a replacement for the USAF's Fairchild A-10A Thunderbolt II and US Navy Mc Donnell Douglas F/A-18C/D Hornet fleets. But as budgets and forces were cut following the end of the Cold War, F-16 upgrades became more attractive and with its focus on ATF, the USAF ended MRF in 1993.

More or less simultaneously prior to the termination of NATF, the US Navy returned to the quandary of how to replace the A-6, examining new options under the Advanced-Attack/Advanced/Fighter-Attack (A-X/A/F-A) program from 1991. Because it promised to create an aircraft of superior performance and capability, the USAF identified A-X/A/F-A as a potential replacement for its General Dynamics F-111, Mc Donnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle and Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk platforms.

With NATF cancelled, A-X/A/F-A gained new air-to-air requirements and became the Advanced Attack/Fighter (A/F-X) and although progress was made, Congress became concerned at the number of projects under way with hopes of reaching the same or similar goals. As a results, A/F-X, ASTOVL and is components were merged under the Joint Advanced Technology (JAST) program in 1994.

 
X-32A and X-35A the two JSF competitor
(Boeing / Lockheed-Martin©)
 
JAST aimed to gather and co-ordinate all the formative technologies existing under the various programs, but lasted barely a year, becoming Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) when it reached its concept definition phase in 1996. Later that year, Boeing and Lockheed-Martin were awarded contracts to produce two JSF demonstrators each for a competitive fly-off, with Boeing's aircraft designated X-32 and Lockheed-Martin's X-35.
 
Roll out without painting for the X-32A
(Boeing media center©)
No doubt, a futurist design
(Boeing media center©)
X-32B trials
(Boeing media center©)
The X-32B was the vertical landing prototype
(Boeing media center©)
 

In 1997, Lockheed-Martin added Northrop-Grumman and British Aerospace to its team, and the UK has since remained the primary overseas partner on the program. The intention with the JSF was to create a stealthy tactical aircraft in three major variants: the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) "A" model was primarily an F-16 replacement, the STOVL "B" model was intended to succeed the Harrier, and the carrier borne (CV)"C" model would belatedly fill the hole left by the US Navy's A-6, while also replacing some US Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18C/D aircraft.

Boeing was first into the air, with the X-32A, on September 18th, 2000. The X-32B followed on March 29th, 2001 and the test program concluded on July 28th, 2001. Lockheed-Martin trailed by only a few weeks, flying the X-35A on October 24th, 2000. With "A" testing completed on November 22nd, the aircraft was modified to X-35B configuration, first flying in its new form on June 23rd, 2001.

While Boeing had completed CV testing with the X-32A, Lockheed-Martin chose to fly a dedicated X-35C, which flew for the first time on December 16th, 2000. The X-35 test program concluded on August 6th, 2001.

On October 26th, 2001 the Lockheed-Martin / Northrop-Grumman / Bae Systems team was announced as winning the JSF contract and the X-35 began to evolve into the F-35 Lightning II.

 
The X-35A during test flight
(Lockheed Martin archives©)
The X-35A was the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) prototype
(Lockheed Martin archives©)
Modified into X-35B and without painting
(Lockheed Martin archives©)
Installation of the vertical power
(Lockheed Martin archives©)
Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) trials
(Lockheed Martin archives©)
A real strange conception
(Lockheed Martin archives©)
The X-35C Carrier Vessel (CV) model
(Lockheed Martin archives©)
Landing after test flight
(Lockheed Martin archives©)
 
The UK formally announced its intention to acquire the F-35 Lightning II in 2006. For many years, the country's JSF program was known as Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA), which remained F-35B based until the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, which switched the British requirement to the F-35C.
But with the "Queen Elisabeth" class carrier design well in advance for STOVL, rather than the catapult and arrestor ("Cat and Trap") gear required for carrier vessels operations, JCA resorted back to the F-35B, at the same time increasingly becoming known as "JSF" by program insiders.
Squadron Leader Steve Long became the first British pilot to fly the Lightning II, on January 26th, 2010 and in July 2012 the government announced its decision to purchase an initial batch of 48 aircraft. The first of these was delivered on July 19th for trials work, a task for 17 (R) Squadron assumed in 2014.

The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review confirmed the UK's intention to buy 138 Lightning's and subsequent work has seen a massive infrastructure upgrade begin at what will be the type's RAF / Royal Navy main operating base, RAF Marham.
In British service the aircraft will be known only as Lightning, losing its "II" (it will actually being the RAF's third Lightning after the Lockheed P-38 and the English Electric).
The first frontline Lightning unit, 617 Squadron "Dambusters" received the first aircraft at RAF Marham on June 6th, 2018 and got the Initial Operational Capabilities (IOC) on January 10th, 2019.
The Lightning OCU, 207 Squadron, will stand up at Marham on July 1st, 2019, followed by a second operational unit, the 809 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), in 2023.
Trials aboard HMS Queen Elisabeth started in 2018, building towards full carrier strike capability in 2020. The last one of the initial 48 Lightning's is expected for delivery in January 2025, by which time a schedule for the remaining 90 aircraft, and the formation of further squadrons will no doubt be put in place.
 
The 4 first Lighting approaching Marham for the first time
(via MOD Crown copyright©)
June 6th, 2018 the future is present
(via MOD Crown copyright©)
Like the Phenix, the 617 Squadron "Dambusters" came back to life
(via MOD Crown copyright©)
Far away of the Tornado design
(via MOD Crown copyright©)
F-35B trials on the HMS Queen Elisabeth
(via MOD Crown copyright©)
The final assembly line at Fort Worth, Texas
(Lockheed Martin press and media©)
  
Engine and Propulsion: The F-35B STOVL is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 afterburner turbofan engine rated at 125kN of dry thrust. The engine can produce 191.3kN of thrust afterburner. It is the successor of F119-PW-100 turbofan engine. It is equipped with full authority digital engine control, a gearbox, and health and usage monitoring system.
A shaft-driven LiftFan propulsion system built by Rolls-Royce is incorporated at the aft of F-35B’s cockpit to accomplish the STOVL capabilities. Doors fitted above and below the vertical fan open as the fin spins up for vertical lift of the aircraft. The counter-rotating LiftFan produces more than 20,000lb of thrust with the help of the gas turbine.
Three-bearing swivelling exhaust nozzle is appended by two roll control ducts on the inboard section of the wing. The engine combined with the vertical LiftFan renders the requisite STOVL capability.
The length and diameter of the engine are 5.5m and 1.3m respectively. The inlet diameter is 1.1m.

Performance: The F-35B can fly at a maximum speed of 1,960km/h. The combat radius and maximum range of the aircraft are 833km and 1,667km respectively.

Armaments: The F-35B is fitted with a 25mm GAU-22A Gatling cannon which has 220 rounds per gun of firing capacity. It has two internal weapon pods and four external underwing hardpoints to expand its mission lethality.
The aircraft can carry 6,803kg of weaponry payload. It is equipped with AIM-120C AMRAAM medium range air to air missiles, air to surface missiles, two GBU-32 JDAM guided bombs, six GBU-38 bombs and munitions dispensers.

Countermeasures and radars: The F-35B is equipped with AN/APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) multi-functional radar built by Northrop Grumman. It also houses AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System (DAS), Barracuda AN/ASQ-239 electronic warfare system, Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) communication system and missile warning system.

(Lockheed Martin press and media©)

 
 
RAF Marham after the Tornado...
 
Interested in RAF Marham history?
Don't miss Ken Delve 2019 new book!
Like the Phenix...
...t
he "Dambusters" are back!
   
Control tower...
(Serge Van Heertum©)
...and last point check
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The markup in the middle of nowhere
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Special moment ... the past goes away (Tornado wing fuel tanks leaving Marham)
(Serge Van Heertum©)
 
(DIO©)
  
Morning mission...
 
Really another look in Mahram sky
(via MOD Crown copyright©)
Furtivity
(via MOD Crown copyright©)
ZM147 for a touch and go
(Pierre Taquet©)
Vertical landing
(Philippe Decock©)
Really noisy!
(Serge Van Heertum©)
View on the belly exhaust
(Pierre Taquet©)
A bird of prey look
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The ZM144 in final
(Philippe Decock©)
 Landing for the ZM147
(Philippe Decock©)
Strange shape...isn't it?
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Long vertical final
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Diamond DA 42M-NG "Twin Star"
(Serge Van Heertum©)
This Thales modified aircraft is owned by Cobham Flight Services
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Cobham conducts commissioning, return-to-service, engineering and periodic flight inspections in addition to trials work on a range of systems including, 
CAT I/II/III ILS, MLS, PAR, DVOR, NDB, U/VDF, TACAN, DME, AGL and PAPI and PSR/SSR.
(Serge Van Heertum©)
 
Afternoon mission...
 
The Lightning fleet is already engaged in multinational training
(via MOD Crown copyright©)
Above the clouds
(via MOD Crown copyright©)
Back home after the mission
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Long vertical approach for the ZM147
(Philippe Decock©)
It's not the hatch that are missing...
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The total trust in vertical landing configuration is 18,9 tons
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The traditional dust cloud of vertical landings
(Serge Van Heertum©)
View on the Liftfan doors
(Serge Van Heertum©)
The amazing combination between the Pratt & Whitney F-135 
and the Rolls Royce Liftfan system
(Serge Van Heertum©)
18 tons at almost zero speed (max Vertical landing weight)
(Philippe Decock©)
Clear view on the 3 Bearing Swivel Module (3BSM)
(Pierre Taquet©)
Stationary flight, note the armament bay doors open for heat evacuation
(Serge Van Heertum©)
Also an impressive jet wash...
(Serge Van Heertum©)
 
  
The 5th generation is gaining altitude and speed ...
(Lockheed Martin press and media©)

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