Tornado Hits The Million Hours Mark

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The RAF's twin-engine, variable-sweep wing, low-level attack Tornado has hit a milestone few other aircraft models may reach -- it has surpassed one million hours flying in 30 years with the RAF and 7,000 hours of combat operations. Tuesday one of the 131 Tornados still in service with the RAF was flown back to a BAE Systems facility at Warton, England, to celebrate the mark. The facility is the same one where the first Tornado ADV rolled out 30 years ago. The aircraft's exterior has shown little change over the years, but its systems have made giant leaps to keep up with advances in avionics and advancing technologies. RAF pilots still speak highly of the jet even when compared to modern attack fighters.

"Some of the American aircraft can carry more and for longer but in terms of capability we are on a par with them and there is nothing in Europe that can do what Tornado can do," wing commander John Moreton told the Lancashire Evening Post. According to the BBC, the first prototype Tornado ADV was rolled out from Warton in 1979. The jets made their operational debut during the first Gulf war and has flown in recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya. The RAF plans to replace the Tornado with Eurofighter Typhoons. The number of those aircraft and their life cycle are not expected to combine to exceed the Tornados' one million hour mark.