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History:In 1968 while searching for a replacement for the F-104 Starfighter, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Canada, and Italy joined forces on a project to create the MRCA: the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft. Soon Britain came onboard, and all other nations but Germany and Italy had to drop out for various reasons. These nations wanted to create a low level strike aircraft capable of penetrating deep into enemy territory, and from the start they were looking at a variable geometry design. (Variable geometry is when an airplane can sweep and unsweep its wings, something that is probably most commonly associated with the F-14 Tomcat.) In addition to the variable geometry, the Tornado had another unique innovation in its swivelling weapons pylons. This made sure that no matter which position the wings were in, the missiles always faced forward, reducing drag.

Soon a company was formed jointly from all three nations under the title of Panavia. Panavia was based in Munich, Germany, and Britain and Germany each held shares of 42.5% of the company, with the remaining 15% being ceded to Italy. Britain would build the front fuselage and tail assembly of the aircraft, Germany the center fuselage, and Italy manufactured the wings. A second company known as Turbo Union was formed to make the engines. Rolls Royce and MTU each became 40% shareholders, and FIAT gained control of the other 20%.

The first prototype of an eventual ten flew on August 14, 1974. The final version included both the fly by wire systems common on most modern aircraft, as well as a mechanical backup. Britain's initial order was for 385 Tornados, Germany wanted 324, and Italy asked for 100. Eventually 90 were exported to Saudi Arabia as well.

Upgrades: After seeing significant action during the Gulf War the Tornado was in need of a replacement. But with the Warsaw Pact threat now non-existant, Parliament was unwilling to grant necessary funding, and so plans were made to modify the original Tornado in order to improve its combat abilities. The first of these upgrades was to equip two Scottish squadrons with Sea-Eagle anti-ship missile enabling them to replace the aging Buccaneer in the maritime strike role.

While not much has changed on the outside, additional interior systems have been added all around to make the Tornado a more formidable opponent. The pilot now has a larger HUD (heads-up display) which allows him to fly the aircraft and receive information from the navigator while looking straight ahead. Both crewmembers now also have nightvision capabilities. A new GPS system has been added, as well as a FLIR (forward looking infrared) system,and a 27-mm cannon and additional pylons for AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles have been included to offer limited self-defense capability for what is first and foremost a strike aircraft.

The first prototype of what has come to be called the Mark 4 first flew on May 29, 1993, and the government has approved the modification of 142 fighters. The first Mark 4's entered service in September 1998.

Specifications(for maritime variant):

Type: Maritime strike aircraft

Powerplant: Two 16,008 lb.-thrust Turbo-Union RB.199-34R afterburning turbofans

Maximum Speed: 919 mph at sea level

Combat Radius: 828 miles

Service Ceiling: 78,720 ft.

Weights: Empty-29,920 lbs.; max takeoff-59,862 lbs.

Weapons: Two Mauser 27-mm cannon; AIM-9L Sidewinder AAMs and two fuselage mounted Sea-Eagle anti-ship missiles.

Span(swept): 28 ft. 3 in.
Span(unswept): 45 ft. 7 in.
Length: 54 ft. 9 in.
Height: 20 ft.
Wing Area: 323 sq. ft.

Variants The first variant is the Tornado ADV or Air Defence Variant. Known as the Mark 3 this version first flew on November 20, 1985, and the final delivery of the aircraft was made on March 24, 1993. Made to be an interceptor, as opposed to a sleek, agile dogfighter, the ADV has great avionics that allow it to down enemy bombers well short of their intended targets. The ADV is equipped with Foxhunter radar, and one of its 27-mm cannons has been replaced with a refueling probe. Of Britain's 385 Tornados, 165 of them became ADV interceptors, and Saudi Arabia received 24 of them as part of their order of 90.


Type: Two-seat long-range interceptor.

Powerplant: Two 13,495 lb.-thrust Turbo-Union RB.199-34R Mk 104 turbofans

Maximum Speed: 1,450 mph at 33,000 ft.

Intercept Radius: 1,116 miles.

Ceiling: 68,880 ft.

Weapons: One 27-mm IWKA-Mauser cannon; four BAe Sky Flash air to air missiles; four AIM-9L air to air missiles.

Weights: Empty-31,900 lbs. Loaded-61,569 lbs.

Span(swept): 28 ft.
Span(unswept): 45 ft.
Length: 59 ft.
Height: 19 ft.
Wing Area: 286 sq. ft.

Another new variant includes the German Tornado ECR which was designed as a replacement to the RF-4E Phantom. Developed as a reconnaissance/air defence suppression aircraft, thirty-five ECR's now serve with the Luftwaffe. Plans for the variant got under way in 1985, and the first flight was made in August 1988 from Manching, Germany. The first aircraft was delivered in June 1990. Two squadrons-Jagdbombergeschwaders 32 and 38 both received ECR's, although all in 1994 all aircraft were consolidated into JB 32.

Modifications included the additions of an Operational Data Interface datalink, a forward-looking infrared sensor, and emitter locations equipment. It also includes a Texas Instruments multi-mode ground mapping radar, and Ferranti FIN 1010 digital inertial navigation system. The ECR carries the AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missile, but has had both 27-mm cannons removed. The only time the ECR has seen action was during Operation Deliberate Force over Bosnia in the early nineties. Italy has plans to purchase 16 ECR's, and South Korea has been thinking about buying some as well, although no order has materialized.


Type: Two-seat tactical reconnaissance and defense suppression aircraft

Powerplant: Two 16,000-lb.-thrust Turbo Union RB199 Mk 105 afterburning turbofans.

Maximum Speed: 919 mph

Combat Radius: 828 miles

Ferry Range: 2,412 miles

Service Ceiling: 78,700 ft.

Weights: Empty-29,920 lbs. Loaded-59,862 lbs.

Weapons: AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles, MBB/Aeritalia reconnaissance pods

Span(swept): 28 ft. 3 in.
Span(unswept): 45 ft. 7 in.
Length: 54 ft. 9 in.
Height: 19 ft.
Wing Area: 322 sq. ft.

Aircraft of the World: A Complete Guide

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