The Tornado GR4 flown in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria is on permanent display in Perth


Perth Aviation Heritage Museum is celebrating 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 said the organization had started applying to get the plane, which the public will be able to view from next month at the Bull Creek Museum, UK United three years ago.

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

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

Wing Commander Erica Ferguson and Ian Craig, centre, with RAF crew reassembling the Tornado GR4.(Provided: Aviation Heritage Museum)

Wing Commander Erica Ferguson, head of Royal Air Force (RAF) heritage and histories, said choosing the RAAFA museum from the 63 applications she received for the decommissioned aircraft was an easy decision.

“When I saw how great the stories already told at Bull Creek were and how incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated the volunteers and staff were, the choice was pretty easy to make,” she said.

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

Indispensable for preserving military history

Wing Commander Ferguson began his career as an air traffic controller, largely controlling the tornadoes that were the backbone of RAF operations for over 30 years.

“It’s a versatile combat aircraft. We had fighter variants, bomber variants and photo reconnaissance aircraft,” she said.

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

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

“Most recently, in 2019, just before this aircraft was taken out of service, it was taking part in operations over Syria against ISIS.”

Not all decommissioned military aircraft go to museums, but Wing Commander Ferguson said it was considered essential 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 treasure arrives by sea

Although a high-powered machine, the Tornado was not flown to Perth from the UK, but dismantled and shipped.

The Tornado GR4 has been disassembled and ready to be loaded onto a freighter.
The Tornado GR4 was dismantled and loaded onto a freighter to come to Australia.(Provided: Wing Commander Erica Ferguson)

“To fly here would have been a huge cost and logistical issue with refueling and staging at different locations. It was much more efficient to bring it in by boat,” the wing commander said. Ferguson.

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

“Then I brought in a team of six technicians from the Royal Air Force who put it back together. It’s a complicated plane because it has pivoting wings, wings that can move backwards to increase speed.”

Tornado brings the collection into a new era

Mr Craig said the arrival of the Tornado had generated enormous excitement within the community, particularly among veterans.

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

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

He said it also brought the collection into a new era of thinking about more recent wars and conflicts.

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

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

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

The public’s first chance to see the tornado will be during a community opening weekend on July 2-3.

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