Panavia Tornado

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Panavia Tornado
RAF Panavia Tornado GR.4A ZA401/XIII from 13 Squadron
RoleStrike/Attack/Air Defence
First Flight14 August 1974
Entered Service1980
Number built993 (including 9 prototypes, 6 pre-production aircraft and 1 static test airframe)
PA 200
Dimensions (Tornado IDS)
Length16.72 m54 ft 10 in
Wingspan13.91 m45 ft 6 in
Height5.95 m19 ft 5 in
Wing area26.6 m²286 ft²
Empty13,890 kg31,620 lb
Maximum takeoff weight28,000 kg61,700 lb
Enginestwo Rolls-Royce RB199 turbofan engines.
ThrustkN (each)lbf (each)
Maximum speedkm/hmph
Operational rangekmmiles
Service ceilingmft
Rate of climbft/minm/min
AvionicsGround mapping and Terrain Following Radar
Armamenttwo Mauser BK-27 27 mm guns, Storm Shadow, Brimstone, BAe ALARM, AIM-9 Sidewinder, Paveway II, Paveway III, Enhanced Paveway, B61 (Luftwaffe and Aeronautica Militare) or WE.177 (Royal Air Force) nuclear weapon



During the late 1960s several countries in Europe were looking for a future replacement for their current fleet of fighters. Of these countries Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands (all flying the F-104G at the time) joined in August 1967 forming the "Multi Role Aircraft for 1975" (MRA-75) programme, shortly afterwards joined by Canada. Like many other projects at that time, they concentrated on a variable geometry (swing-wing) aircraft, which seemed the way to make an aircraft perform well throughout a wider flight envelope.

The United Kingdom and France had already started the Anglo French Variable Geometry (AFVG) project in 1965, building on French studies on the subject. But after France pulled out of the project again in 1967, the UK also joined the MRA-75 group during 1968, while France went on on its own on what eventually would become the Mirage 2000. The expertise BAC had gained from the AFVG-project though proved to be very worthwhile in the MRA-75 programme.

On 17 July 1968, only weeks after the UK joined, the first Memorandum of Understanding for the MRA-75 was signed, covering the conceptional phase. From this conceptional phase two configurations were proposed in March 1969, by which time the name had changed to MRCA (Multi Role Combat Aircraft);

  • the PA100, a single seat aircraft for Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, as a replacement for the F-104G, in close air support and air superiority variants.
  • the PA200, a two seat strike/interdiction variant for Germany and the United Kingdom.

As a result, on 26 March 1969, Panavia GmbH was formed by MBB (now DASA), BAC (now BAE Systems) and Fiat (now Alenia), a multinational consortium which was to handle the production of the aircraft, followed by Turbo Union for the production of the engine on 1 June 1969. But during July 1969 the Netherlands withdrew from the programme, as had Belgium and Canada done earlier, leaving only Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

At this point the indicated requirements were for 600 single-seaters (480 for Germany and 120 for Italy) and 505 two-seaters (385 for the RAF and 120 for Germany), but by the time the "Definition Phase" Final Report was generated in April 1970, Germany had adjusted its requirements to 420 of the two seat variant, dropping its requirements for the single seat variant all together. In the process Italy also adjusted its wishes to the two seat variant which effectually mend the cancellation of the single seat variant.

On 22 July 1970 the 5th MoU was signed for nine flying prototypes and one static test airframe, followed in March 1973 by the 6th Memorandum of Understanding which covered six pre-series aircraft. In the mean time the assemblage of the first prototype had started late 1972 and this airframe had its official roll-out on 8 April 1974 at Ingolstadt-Manching in Germany.


Interdictor/Strike (IDS)

The IDS is the baseline strike model. It was delivered is following submodels:

  • Tornado GR1: The standard IDS version of the RAF. Interestingly, although fitted with advanced navigation equipment (partly already being developed for the TSR-2) such as Texas Instruments TF/TA radar, Decca Type 72 doppler navigation radar and BAE Systems FIN1010 three-axis digital INS, the Tornado is not fitted with internal EW equipment. On operational missions, Sky Shadow radar jammer and BOZ-107 chaff/flare dispenser pods are carried on the aircraft's wings, occupying two store stations.
  • Tornado GR1A: The reconnaissance version of the RAF. Sixteen GR1s were modified to GR1A and fourteen new-built GR1As have been built. The two 27mm guns have been removed to make room for the recce equipment. The base for this system is the TIRSS.
  • Tornado GR1B: As a replacement for the Blackburn Buccaneer at total of 26 GR1s were modified to the GR1B version. The GR1B was capable of carrying the Sea Eagle. The GR1B-designation was abandoned in 2001 since all GR4s are capable of carrying this missile
  • Tornado GR4: All RAF Tornado GR1s that underwent their Mid Life Upgrade (MLU) were designated GR4 afterwards. The upgrade comprised installment of a Global Positioning System (GPS), a new variant of the Heads Up Display (HUD) and a Laser Inertial Navigation System (LIRS)/Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS)
  • Tornado GR4A: Designation for a modified GR1A where the TIRSS has been replaced by new recce systems ; The Thales DJRP -Digital Joint Recconaissance pod (also carried on Harrier) and RAPTOR (Recconaissance Airborne Pod TORnado) both are external recce pods.
  • Tornado IDS: Designation used for the standard German and Italian Air Force aircaft and for the export version of the Tornado GR1 of the Royal Saudi Air Force. The German Air Force integrated the GBU-54/B Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (L JDAM) precision-guided bomb onto its Panavia Tornado IDS strike aircraft, it was announced on 3 December 2009.

Twin-stick aircraft, with full mission-capability, are unofficially designated as Tornado GR1(T), Tornado GR4(T) and Tornado IDS(T).

Air Defence Variant (ADV)

The Tornado ADV was developed for the Royal Air Force as long-range interceptor to replace the F-4M Phantom II in this role. Is was fitted with a GEC-Marconi AI.24 Foxhunter radar and four British Aerospace Skyflash radar guided missiles.

  • Tornado F2: The first ADV version of the RAF. This versions' AI24 Foxhunter radar encountered numerous problems in the beginning. This even led to the first Tornado F2s being delivered with concrete and lead ballasted 'Blue Circle' (a UK cement brand) radar instead of the Foxhunter.
  • Tornado F3: The eventual ADV version that was delivered to the RAF, replacing the F-4M Phantom II in the air-defence role.
  • Tornado ADV: Designation for the export version of the Tornado F3 of the Royal Saudi Air Force. Twin-stick aircraft, with full mission-capability, are unofficially designated as Tornado F2(T), Tornado F3(T) and Tornado ADV(T).

Electronic Combat and Reconnaissance (ECR)

  • Tornado ECR: Operates in the SEAD role. The ECR version is optimised for electronic battle management and reconnaissance. It is equipped with an ELS, IIR, FLIR and the Operational Data Interface (ODIN). The AGM-88 HARM ARM is used to combat radar installations.



The Avionics Software System Tornado Ada (ASSTA) upgrade program.


Beginning in 2000, German IDS, ECR and RECCE (IDS with additional cables to support the RECCE-POD) Tornados received the ASSTA 1 upgrade. The major modification of the ASSTA 1 (Avionics System Software Tornado in Ada) upgrade was the replacement of the weapons computer with a MIL-STD 1553/1760 or Ada MIL-STD 1815 computer. The Tornados also received an internal GPS, a laser INS, and the "Tornado Self Protection Jammer" ECM-pod. The new computer supports the HARM III, HARM 0 Block IV/V and Kormoran II missiles, the Rafael Litening II LDP and GBU-24 Paveway III LGB.


The main focus of the ASSTA 2 programme was on improving the Tornado’s cockpit displays and increasing the aircraft’s survivability against the latest ground-based and airborne air defence systems. In addition, the Tornado was equipped with comprehensive software and hardware updates, such as an improved head-down visual display unit, modern colour screens, a digitised map display, the improved Tornado Defensive Aids Subsystem (TDASS) for radar warnings, an enhanced navigation system, and more powerful computers. All 85 Tornado aircraft destined for the Luftwaffe will now be consecutively upgraded to the new standard. The plan is to convert 62 aircraft at the company's Military Air Systems Center in Manching and 23 at the 1st Air Force Maintenance Regiment (Luftwaffeninstandhaltungsregiment 1) in Erding. The first ASSTA 2 Tornado was delivered to the Luftwaffe 10 April 2010.


In 2010, ASSTA standard 3 was tested in Manching. Mods include a multifunctional information distribution system/Link 16 data link, new SATURN radios, moving map displat taken from the Eurofighter Typhoon and a digital video and voice recorder. It also includes the integration of Boeing's GBU-54 LDAM. The German Air Force received its first upgraded Panavia Tornado strike aircraft in mid-2012 under the service's Cassidian-led ASSTA 3.0 avionics modernisation program. Cassidian is working on an ASSTA 3.1 operating standard, which will bring new colour displays capable of displaying images from the Reccelite reconnaissance pod. Full integration of the MIDS equipment followed with the ASSTA 3.1 phase in 2015. This also replaced obsolete monochrome displays in the rear cockpit and introduce new chaff and flare dispensers to further boost self-protection.

Capability Upgrade Strategy

In 2008, BAE Systems was awarded a contract for CUS(P) (Capability Upgrade Strategy (Pilot)) for the Tornado GR4 by the UK MoD. CUS(P) will involve the design, development, integration and embodiment of an upgraded Secure Communications System and the introduction of a Tactical Data Link Capability onto the Tornado GR4 fleet, along with the integration of the Paveway IV PGM. The programme will deliver the upgrade in two stages.

Capability A

Capability A will provide a capability release to service for Secure Communications and Paveway IV.

Capability B

Capability B will include a release to service for a Tactical Data Link Capability.


Upgrade for RAF GR4 aircraft. The contract will replace 1970s wet film and display processing technologies with a new pilot multi-functional display (PMFD) integrated with a new radar and navigator's map processor known as the Tornado Advanced Radar Display and Information System (TARDIS). TARDIS is supplied by BAE Systems Platform Solutions Sector, and the PMFD by Astronautics.

Tornado Sustainment Programme

Upgrade for the Saudi Tornado fleet.

Stage 1

Carried out at BAE Systems Warton site.

Stage 2

Stage 2 will be carried out in Saudi Arabia. The RSAF is planning to equip the IDS fleet with a range of new precision-guided weapons and enhanced targeting equipment, in many cases common with those systems already fielded by the Royal Air Force's Tornado GR4s, such as the MBDA Storm Shadow.

Retro Enabling Tasks

Italian Air Force aircract were upgraded in the Retro Enabling Task (RET) RET 6, 7 and 8, with the latter being the full upgrade.


18 IDS aircraft received the RET 6 initial upgrade of navigation and communication systems, and integration of new weapons.


15 IDS aircraft, including three IDS-T, were upgraded to RET 7 standard which also involved structural life extension work and basic integration with the RecceLite pod.


The final batch of 25 aircraft, including 15 ECR variants, the full upgrade: RET 8. RET 8 also introduces improved displays with NVG compatibility, full integration with RecceLite, MIDS Link16, AGM-88E AARGM and GBU-39 SDB. In March 2013, Panavia was awarded a contract for fleet wide modernization. The contract brings the Italian Tornado fleet to a common configuration and includes earlier Retro Enabling Task (RET) RET 7 and RET 8 MLU upgrades.



More information

External links


  • Modern Fighting Aircraft - Tornado by Doug Richardson (ISBN 0861012011)
  • Jane's all the World's Aircraft 1970-71 (ISBN 354000675)
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