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Tornado GR4 flown in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are permanently displayed in Perth

Written by Javed Iqbal

The Perths Aviation Heritage Museum celebrates the arrival of a Tornado GR4 to its collection of historic aircraft after a long campaign.

Royal Australian Air Force Association (RAAFA) WA chief Ian Craig says the organization began applying to get the plane, which the public can see from next month at the Bull Creek Museum, from the UK three years ago.

“We started this campaign in June 2019, so it’s exactly three years ago,” Craig told Christine Layton on ABC Radio Perth.

“It’s the only tornado in the world, GR4, [on display] outside the UK.

crew that reassembled the Tornado GR4 at the Bull Creek stand in front of aircraft
Wing Commander Erica Ferguson and Ian Craig, in the middle, with the RAF crew assembling the Tornado GR4 again.(Delivered: Aviation Heritage Museum)

Wing Commander Erica Ferguson, head of heritage and history for the Royal Air Force (RAF), said it was an easy decision to choose the RAAFA Museum from among the 63 applications she received for the decommissioned aircraft.

“When I saw how amazing the stories that were already being told at Bull Creek were, and how incredibly talented and dedicated the volunteers and staff were there, it was a pretty easy choice to make,” she said.

“My job is to make sure that the important stories of men and women in the Royal Air Force can be told to a wide audience, and what wider audience can we have than out here in Western Australia?

Important to preserve military history

Wing Commander Ferguson started his career as an air traffic controller and largely controlled the tornadoes that were the backbone of RAF operations for more than 30 years.

“It’s a multi-role fighter. We had fighter variants, bomber variants and photo reconnaissance planes,” she said.

“This [brought to Perth] was one of the ground attack planes.

The Tornado GR4 is the only one of its kind at a museum outside the UK
The Tornado GR4 is the only one of its kind at a museum outside the UK.(Delivered by: Wing Commander Erica Ferguson)

“Most recently, back in 2019, just before this plane was withdrawn from service, she participated in the operations across Syria against ISIS.”

Not all disused military aircraft go into museums, but Wing Commander Ferguson said it was considered important that some did.

“It’s important because it’s a tool to tell the important stories of those who have flown and operated the aircraft over time.”

Airborne treasures arrive by sea

Despite being a powerful machine, the Tornado was not flown to Perth from the UK, but separated and sent over.

The Tornado GR4 was dismantled and ready to be loaded on a cargo ship.
The Tornado GR4 was dismantled and loaded on a cargo ship to arrive in Australia.(Delivered by: Wing Commander Erica Ferguson)

“To fly here, it would have been a huge cost and logistical problem with refueling and staging through various locations. It was far more efficient to bring her by ship,” said Wing Commander Ferguson.

“It took about six weeks on the ship, we all became ship spotters.

“Then I took a team out of six Royal Air Force technicians who have put her back together. She’s a complicated plane because she has swing wings, wings that can go backwards to increase speed.”

Tornado brings collection into a new era

Craig said the arrival of the tornado had aroused enormous enthusiasm among the community, especially veterans.

“We have a whole Tornado community in Australia, so many are exchanging pilots who actually flew our planes. There are a lot of technicians working on them in the UK,” he said.

The Tornado GR4 took six weeks to reach Australia by ship from the UK
The Tornado GR4 took six weeks to reach Australia by ship.(Delivered by: Wing Commander Erica Ferguson)

He said it also brought the collection into a new era of reflecting on recent wars and conflicts.

“We have one of only 17 Lancastere left in the world, we have a Spitfire, we have a Dakota, we have a Catalina,” he said.

“Our collection is world famous and it’s located here in little old Perth in Bull Creek, it’s just amazing that we have this collection here.

“What the Tornado really means is that we are now moving into a new era of more modern aircraft.

The public’s first chance to see Tornado will be for an open community weekend on July 2nd and 3rd.

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Javed Iqbal

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