On 22 March 2011 the Tornado F3 officially retired from operational service Royal Air Force and the last squadron to fly the type, 111(F) Squadron, disbanded at RAF Leuchars. The same day saw the publication of "Tornado F3: 25 Years of Air Defence", an absolutely magnificent tribute to the aircraft itself, and to the men and women who flew in it and worked on it during its operational life.
£2.00 from every copy sold will go to the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) charity: though this is not the most important reason to buy this book. Some books simply grab your attention and refuse to let go. Everything about "Tornado F3" tells you that it was written with real passion by people who truly understand their subject matter: and who are able to communicate that passion in a language that is largely accessible to the general reader and certainly accessible to any aviation enthusiast.
Perhaps the authority which the authors bring to this book should not be surprising. Large parts were written by Wg Cdr Justin Reuter, who at the time the book was being written was the Commander of the Operations Wing and the Deputy Station Commander at RAF Leuchars. And the rest of the book is likewise written by people who were actually there, and usually in senior positions. The approachability of the book is greatly aided by the way it is subdivided into short chunks which address particular aspects of Tornado service over a quarter of a century. Every squadron that flew the aircraft gets a short chapter, and almost all are written by someone who commanded the squadron during the time it flew the Tornado F3. Other sections include aspects of the aircraft's weapons systems; the stations at which it was based; the roles of those involved with the aircraft; operations and major exercises in which the Tornado F3 was involved; and overseas customers.
But while the authority of the written content is outstanding, what really sets this book apart is the sheer quality, quantity and variety of the images on offer. Every section is highly illustrated, and the images reveal much about the way this book has been produced by a team that combined senior RAF officers, outstanding photographers, and the resources of the publisher, Squadron Prints. The superb photograph chosen for the cover of the book sets the tone, but as you leaf through the book you realise that it contains many others of equal quality and impact which could have been used instead. A section towards the end of the book carries photos and artwork showing many of the colour schemes and markings applied to the F3 during its operational life, and nicely rounds off one of the best aviation books we have ever seen.