‘Gate Guardian’ to be retained at Leuchars after RAF departs

W/Cmdr Neville Clayton, Cllr Tim Brett and Carroll Finnie of Leuchars Community Council and the shell of the F3 Tornado. (Photo by Peter Adamson)
W/Cmdr Neville Clayton, Cllr Tim Brett and Carroll Finnie of Leuchars Community Council and the shell of the F3 Tornado. (Photo by Peter Adamson)

The community of Leuchars has welcomed the news that one of much-loved RAF ‘gate guardians’, will remain at the base even after the airforce has departed.

The retention of the Tornado F3, which has been located close to the main gate for a decade, will be seen as a reminder of the area’s long links with the airforce even after the arrival of the Army in March next year.

Other gate guards, including the Phantom ‘Black Mike’, are to be sold off.

Local Councillor Tim Brett said: “I think it is very fitting that the army units coming to Leuchars from Germany want to retain the link with the RAF to remember the nearly 100 years of service that the RAF have provided at Leuchars.

“The retention of the aircraft will be a fitting memorial to all those who have worked and served at RAF Leuchars over this time.”

Councillor Brett went on to say the local community council were also pleased that the well-recognised stone marker inscribed with ‘RAF Leuchars’ currently located at the rundel close to the guardroom, is to be kept and relocated to Junction Gardens next to the railway station.

The gate guard, an Mk3 ZE967, was built in 1989 at the BAE Systems factory at Warton in Lancashire.

The aircraft was first flown on December 7, 1989 and was delivered to the 229 Sqn, the Tornado F3 Operational Conversion Unit on December 20, 1989.

As the drawdown of the Tornado F3 fleet saw RAF Leeming close, ZE967 moved to Leuchars and served with Nos 43 and 111(Fighter) Squadrons.

In 2003 when 56 (Reserve) Squadron arrived at Leuchars, ZE967 was transferred to the squadron as it had taken on the role of the Tornado F3 Operational Conversion Unit. ZE967 bore the tail letters ‘UT’ and served at Leuchars for the rest of its operational life.

On February 16, 2004, after amassing 3806:45 flying hours , ‘UT’ flew her last sortie with 56 Squadron and was prepared for use as a gate guardian and was positioned in her current resting place before the 2004 Leuchars Airshow.