Panavia Tornado was the result of cooperation from Italy, the United Kingdom and West Germany.
Born at the same time as the American F-15 and Russian Su-27, Panavia Tornado fighter aircraft once was a symbol of the European Air Force to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War. However, this type of aircraft is gradually being phased out without any upgrade package to extend service life.
Unlike two types of aircraft of the time, Panavia Tornado was designed with variable-sweep wing when flying, this design gave the aircraft the ability to achieve high speeds at low altitudes and take off on short runway. Although older than most of the pilots flying it, the Panavia Tornado is still the most popular strike fighter throughout Europe. In fact, there are twice as many Tornadoes in service across NATO members and allied states as the far more modern Typhoon Eurofighter.
Panavia Tornado was the result of cooperation from Italy, the United Kingdom and West Germany. There are three primary Tornado variants: the Tornado IDS fighter-bomber, the suppression of enemy air defences Tornado ECR and the Tornado ADV interceptor aircraft.
The Tornado ADV was a variant that was optimized for long-range interception, its origins in an Royal Air Force Air Staff Requirement 395, which to replace the Lightning F6 and Phantom FGR2. The requirement for a modern interceptor was driven by the threat posed by the large Soviet long-range bomber fleet, in particular the supersonic Tupolev Tu-22M.
From the beginning of the Tornado IDS’s development in 1968, the possibility of a variant dedicated to air defence had been quietly considered; several American aircraft had been evaluated, but found to be unsuitable. However, the concept proved unattractive to the other European partners on the Tornado project, thus the UK elected to proceed in its development alone. On 4 March 1976, the development of the Tornado ADV was formally approved; it was announced on this day that 165 of the 385 Tornados that were on order for the RAF would be of the Tornado ADV variant.
The Tornado Air Defense Variant was selected for development from the original Tornado IDS GR1 attack aircraft in the late 1970s as the RAF’s dedicated fighter. The Tornado ADV has an 80% commonality with the Tornado IDS attack aircraft. One of its most notable features are the “swing wings,” which allow the Tornado to rapidly transition from high-speed, high-altitude combat to low-level and fairly slow bombing runs with ease.
Variable wing geometry, allowing for minimal drag during the critical low-level dash towards a well-prepared enemy, had been desired from the project’s start. Advanced navigation and flight computers, including the then innovative fly-by-wire system, greatly reduced the workload of the pilot during low-level flight and eased control of the aircraft. For long range bombing missions, the Tornado has a retractable refuelling probe.
The Tornado ADV’s differences compared to the IDS is the longer fuselage, which permits greater internal fuel storage. A greater sweep angle on the wing gloves, and the deletion of their kruger flaps, deletion of the port cannon. A longer radome for the Foxhunter radar, slightly longer airbrakes and a fuselage stretch of 1.36m to allow the carriage of four Skyflash semi-active radar homing missiles.
The stretch was applied to the Tornado front fuselage being built by the UK, with a plug being added immediately behind the cockpit, which had the unexpected benefit of reducing drag and making space for an additional fuel tank carrying 200 imperial gallons of fuel. The pilot in the front seat and controls the aircraft, while the rear seat is the weapons systems officer controls the radar and defensive countermeasures systems. An important feature of the Tornado ADV is its ability to patrol at long distance from its base, supported by air-to-air refueling. The aircraft is capable of operation in all weathers and at night, using night-vision goggles.
Tornado ADV is equipped with a pair of Turbo-Union RB199-34R Augmented Turbofan, provide up to 40.5 kN (9,100 lbf) of dry thrust each. With afterburner, this increases out to 73.5 kN (16,500 lbf) of thrust each engine.
Maximum speed is listed at mach 2.2, making her a supersonic mount and her service ceiling is reported to be about 15,240 m (50,000 ft). Ferry range is an impressive 4,265 km (2,650 mi) while operational ranges are limited out to 1,400km (869 miles).
Tornado ADV’s main armament is a single 27mm Mauser BK-27 cannon with 180 bullets internally mounted under starboard side of fuselage. ADV’s carry external munitions ability is very impressive, with ten hard points under the wings and fuselage holding up to 9 tons (19,800lb) of payload. The underwing mounts have a swiveling capability to align the ordnance straight forward depending on the current wing sweep in use.
The ADV air defence variant is armed with short-range and medium-range air-to-air missiles. A typical weapons payload would include four Sidewinder short-range missiles and four Skyflash medium-range missiles. Tornado ADV aircraft were the first aircraft to be fitted with the short-range MBDA ASRAAM air-to-air missile which entered service in January 2001 and was declared ready for operational deployment in September 2002.
In all, 100 RAF Tornadoes have been upgraded to carry AIM-20 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, a Raytheon IFF 4810 SIFF system and Honeywell laser inertial navigation system.
The aircraft is equipped with a BAE Systems Foxhunter radar, which provides long-range search capability and enables the aircraft to engage targets at beyond visual range.
Not a great dogfighter by any means, the ADV is a very capable platform for performing Combat air patrol duties, which it did successfully during the 1991 Gulf war. Once it was pinned to the ground, the Iraqi air force ceased to pose a serious threat, and the Iraqi planes that eventually took off flew to Iran.
By the end of the Cold War, it had become apparent that the main threat which the Tornado ADV was originally designed to combat, the heavy bomber, is in the process of being supplanted. In those circumstances, a more agile and maneuverable aircraft is required. In the months before the 2003 Gulf War, a small number of Tornado ADV underwent a modification program to allow them to operate in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses role. The modifications permitted the carriage of a pair of ALARM missiles in place of the Skyflash or AMRAAM missiles, but the modified aircraft were not in the event deployed during the conflict.
It has decided to keep the Tornado ADV alive until the arrival of the Eurofighter in the next century, and not to lease American F-16s to fill the void. The Tornado air defense variant was replaced with the Typhoon entirely as at 31 Mar 2011. It was never tested in real combat.
In addition to the Royal Air Force, Tornado ADV was also operated by the Italian Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force.
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