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The Panavia Tornado; RAF Fairford, July 22, 2002

The Panavia Tornado, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Panavia Tornado is a fighter which was developed in a joint venture between Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. There are over the years three variants of the Tornado been developed for different operational roles and specific tasks, namely; the Tornado IDS, the Tornado ECR and the Tornado ADV.

The Panavia Tornado is a twin-engine fighter with a variable swing wing which was developed in a joint venture between Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. In the 60s the swing wing concept was developed by engineers to improve dynamics which makes an airplane at high speed maneuverable. The United Kingdom was looking after the failure of the TSR-2 and not buying the F-111 for an aircraft which would possess these properties. The new aircraft should replace the Avro Vulcan and the Blackburn Buccaneer. In 1968 West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Canada formed together a working group to develop a similar aircraft to replace the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. This consortium was known as the Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) program. All participating countries had an aging fleet of combat aircraft in which several aircraft types were used for different tasks. At the end of 1968, the United Kingdom joined this project and made an unofficial agreement with Italy and West Germany in May 1969. The six cooperating countries indicated that they would together buy at least 1,500 airplanes of this new type. Canada and Belgium pulled themselves back from the project and did not participate in the long-term planning of the project. Canada eventually bought the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet and Belgium purchased the Dassault Mirage V. On March 26, 1969, the four remaining partners signed the agreement for the creation of the multinational company Panavia Aircraft GmbH.

The goal of the MRCA project was to develop a fighter which can be used as an attack plane, a photo reconnaissance aircraft, an air superiority fighter and a maritime fighter. Several concepts have been developed ranging from fixed wing aircraft with one engine to an aircraft with swing wings with two engines. The Netherlands stepped from 1970 out of the program because the aircraft would be too complex. Also, the reduction of the German order of 600 to 324 aircraft was a significant setback in the

initial phase of the program. When the development of the aircraft actually started the contribution of Germany and the UK was 42.5% and the contribution of Italy was 15% to the program. The fuselage and the tail of the prototypes were built by BA Systems in England. The front fuselage section was built by MBB in Germany and the wings were assembled in Italy by Aeritalia. In May 1970, the draft was limited to two concepts, namely; the Panavia 100 single seat fighter in Germany and the Panavia 200 double seat fighter in England. The two-seater variant was preferred by the RAF and would later become known as the Panavia Tornado. The three partners signed the Intention to Proceed (ITP) document in September 1971. The role of the Tornado was from that moment attacking ground targets at low altitudes. The reason for this choice was the strong Soviet air defenses.

The Tornado was developed as an attack plane which had to be able to perform with conventional and nuclear weapons. Characteristic of the Tornado are its variable swing wings. The wings allow the Tornado to fly at a relatively low landing speed and to perform at the same time high speed attacks. For missions over long distances, the Tornado has a refueling probe on the nose of the aircraft. The Tornado is an aircraft in which many electronics fits. BAE Systems developed for the Tornado the Advanced Radar Display Information System (TARDIS) and a 32.5 cm multi-function display to create a combined radar and Projected Map Display in the rear cockpit. The Tornado has for its navigation and the attacking of targets a Doppler radar in the nose. The radar performs under very bad weather conditions and at low altitudes. The Tornado can carry almost all NATO standard weapons such as unguided bombs, laser-guided bombs, missiles and specialized weapons such as anti-runway weapons and anti-personnel weapons. The Tornado has two Mauser 20mm cannons aboard. For the self-defense, the Tornado is equipped with chaff and flare dispensers against enemy missiles. Under the wings, the aircraft is able to carry an ECM pod to disrupt the enemy's communications. Under the wings and under the fuselage several fuel tanks can be carried to extend the operational range of the Tornado. For self-defense against other aircraft, the Tornado can also be equipped with two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. The first operational variant of the Tornado would be designated as the Tornado IDS (InterDictor/Strike).

The first flight of the Tornado IDS took place on August 14, 1974 at the German airbase Manching. After a series of test flights some adjustments were made to the Tornado to improve flight characteristics. During the test phase of the Tornado two aircraft were lost. In both cases mistakes which were made by the pilots were the cause. A third Tornado IDS was heavily damaged after a pilot-induced oscillation pitch. This problem, however, was solved by new electronic concepts which were used in the Tornado. Eventually the Tornado came fairly easily through the qualification procedures and the aircraft could be produced. The contract for the delivery of the first aircraft was signed on July 29, 1976. The first Tornados’ were delivered to the RAF and the Luftwaffe on June 5 and 6, 1979. The first Italian Tornado could be delivered on September 25, 1981. For the joint Training of the Tornado pilots, the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment (TTTE) was established at RAF Cottesmore in England on January 29, 1981. This unit would train all Tornado pilots of the three partner countries until March 31, 1999. There were not many export orders placed for the Tornado. Saudi Arabia was the only country which would buy the Tornado. The agreement to purchase the Tornado was closed during the controversial Al-Yamamah deal. The production of the Tornado ended at the end of 1998 when the last batch of a total of 96 Tornado IDS aircraft was delivered to Saudi Arabia.

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