The final farewell that people across Britain are giving to Royal Air Force Tornado fighter jets is testament to their four decades of dedicated service.
Yesterday was the first day of a series of finale flypasts around the UK, ahead of the aircraft retiring next month. A formation flew over RAF bases, including three in North Yorkshire, allowing communities the chance to say goodbye.
The nationwide response is thoroughly deserved for the jets, which have been the backbone of the RAF for almost 40 years, initially entering service in 1979. They were first used in live operations during the Gulf War in 1991, most recently bombarding Daesh to push the terrorist group back through Iraq and Syria.
When they returned home for good from that last operation, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson paid tribute to the iconic jets’ “vital role in keeping Britain and its allies safe for four decades”. Indeed, it is the long-standing security that they have offered to these shores that makes their retirement a departure filled with both poignancy and pride for many. It is a farewell with timing of a poetic significance; the jets will be withdrawn at the end of March, as the UK seeks to establish its new place in the world with its departure from the European Union.
Just as the Tornadoes have served with distinction, it is now over to the next generation of combat aircraft - Typhoon jets with new weapons capabilities and the RAF’s new fleet of F-35 Lightning jets - to do the same, as part of a defence strategy that will have to also contend with such modern threats as cyber warfare. A sign perhaps, that a new era is dawning.