Military Aviation

This RAF Tornado Navigator is the first Tonka crew member to fly 6000 hours in the type

To date Flight Lieutenant Chris Stradling is the only person from the nations who fly the Tornado – UK, Italy, Germany and Saudi Arabia, to break the 6000-hour mark

A Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado navigator from RAF Marham has become the first person in history to log over 6000 hours flying the mighty Tonka.

Flight Lieutenant Chris Stradling 55, nicknamed ‘Stradders’, was one of the aircrew that flew the Tornados recently to RAF Marham from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

Flight Lieutenant Chris Stradling 55

It took 31 years flying on the aircraft to achieve the 6000 hrs milestone and to date Stradders is the only person from the nations who fly the Tornado – UK, Italy, Germany and Saudi Arabia, to break the 6000-hour mark.

“6000 hours on any fast jet is not common and to be the first person to do so on Tornado is a real sense of pride”, he said.

“My current boss has been brilliant and has certainly helped me to put a large dent in the hours. If it wasn’t for him and several other members of the Tornado Force at RAF Marham I probably wouldn’t have got close.”

According to a service News Release, after almost 40 years serving the UK on military operations across the world, iconic RAF Tornado jets have returned home for the last time.

First entering service in 1979, the fast jets have been used in operations across the world, most recently bombarding Daesh to push the terrorist group back through Syria and Iraq.

The weapons capabilities of the soon-to-retire Tornados are now being delivered by RAF Typhoon jets, which will continue to take a leading role in the Coalition’s mission against Daesh. Under ‘Project Centurion’, worth £425million over the past three years, the Typhoon can now also launch the world-leading Meteor air-to-air missile, the Stormshadow deep strike cruise missile and the precision attack missile Brimstone.

The Tornado will be officially retired from service at the end of March and will only be used for training purposes over the UK in the intervening period.

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Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, a Tornado Pilot himself, said:

“I will personally be very sad to see the Tornado retire, but it is time now to pass the baton to our next generation combat aircraft. The F-35B Lightning is now operational and the Typhoon is now fully multi-role capable and able to take on the Tornado’s missions.

“We can all take immense pride in what the Tornado has achieved in defence of the nation over nearly four decades, and reflect back on the courage, commitment and achievements of everyone who has contributed to the success of this extraordinary aircraft.”

Photo credit: Crown Copyright

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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