Losses and Aviation Safety


The two pilots on board the Tornado fighter bomber were safely recovered and brought back to Saudi Arabia

According to Reuters a Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) Tornado fighter bomber which was performing a combat mission in the skies over Saada province in northern Yemen was lost on Jan. 7, 2018.

The two pilots on board were safely recovered and brought back to the country.

Yemen’s al-Massirah television channel says Houthi forces shot down the fighter-bomber while Saudi state news agency SPA said it was lost for ‘technical reasons’.

On Sep. 25, 1985, the U.K. and Saudi Arabia signed the Al Yamamah I contract including, amongst other things, the sale of 48 Tornado IDS fighter bomber sand 24 Tornado ADV interceptors. The first RSAF Tornado IDS performed its maiden flight on Mar. 26, 1986, and the first Saudi Tornado ADV was delivered on Feb. 9, 1989. In 1991 Saudi Tornados undertook operations during the Gulf War. In June 1993 the Al Yamamah II contract was signed, the main element of which was 48 additional IDSs.

10 of the Saudi Tornados were outfitted with equipment for performing reconnaissance missions.

The 22 Tornado ADVs have been replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon.

In 2007, both the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile and the ALARM anti-radiation missile that previously equipped the RSAF’s Tornados had been retired from service. As of 2010, Saudi Arabia has signed several contracts for new weapon systems to be fitted to their Tornado and Typhoon fleets, such as the short range air-to-air IRIS-T missile, and the Brimstone and Storm Shadow cruise missiles.

In September 2006, the Saudi government signed a contract worth £2.5 billion (U.S. $4.7 billion) with BAE Systems to upgrade up to 80 RSAF Tornado IDS aircraft to keep them in service until 2020. RSAF Tornado 6612 was returned to BAE Systems Warton in December 2006 for upgrade under the “Tornado Sustainment Programme” (TSP), which equipped the IDS fleet with a range of new precision-guided weapons and enhanced targeting equipment, in many cases common with those systems already fielded by the UK’s Tornado GR4s. In December 2007, the first RSAF aircraft to complete modernisation was returned to Saudi Arabia.

Starting from the first week of November 2009, RSAF Tornados, along with the service F-15s performed air raids during the Shia insurgency in north Yemen. It was the first time since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 that the RSAF participated in a military operation over hostile territory.

RSAF Tornados are playing a central role in Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.

A Royal Saudi Air Force Panavia Tornado ADV aircraft taxis on a runway as it prepares to take off on a mission during Operation “Desert Storm” on Feb. 2, 1991.

Photo credit: Steven Byles from Singapore, Singapore (RSAF Tornado) via Wikipedia and U.S. DoD

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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