The Panavia Tornado is a jet engine fighter-bomber jointly developed as the Multi-role combat aircraft - or MRCA - by Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. It first flew on August 14th, 1974. International co-operation continued after its entry into service within a tri-nation training and evaluation unit operating from RAF Cottesmore in Rutland in the English Midlands.

Interdictor/Strike (IDS) - UK, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia

One of the world's most sophisticated and capable interdiction and attack aircraft, with large payload, long range and high survivabilty. The Tornado was cleared to carry almost all the air-launched weapons in the NATO inventory, including cluster bombs, anti-runway munitions, and nuclear weapons. Known as the Tornado GR4 in the RAF, which is an upgrade of the original Tornado GR1 featuring GPS navigation and the ability to deploy more advanced munitions. A major feature of the GR1 was its terrain-following radar, which allowed all-weather hands-off low-level flight, but current doctrine eschews extreme low-level flight and relies on inertial navigation with GPS updates rather than TFS. The GR1B was a maritime strike aircraft brought into service to replace the Blackburn Buccaneer and deliver the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile. The aircraft could only track targets via the missile's radar seeker. A minor variant of the GR4 is the GR4A, in which GR4's 27mm cannon is replaced by a reconnaissance sensors. The GR1 was delivered in a grey/green camoflage, but this was changed to dark grey during the late 1990s. In operations over Iraq some GR1s received a sandy pink scheme. GR4s participating in the 2003 Iraq War were painted in a light grey scheme. German Navy examples normally sport a distinctive black/blue/grey camouflage pattern. The UK is researching possible replacements under the Future Offensive Air System study, which could be a piloted aircraft, a UAV or a cruise missile-based system. Currently no other aircraft (in service or planned) matches the Tornado's strike capabilities.

Air Defence Variant (ADV) - UK, Saudi Arabia

In answer to an RAF requirement for a long-range interceptor, an air-defence version of the Tornado was developed in the late 1970s. Its fuselage was stretched to reduce drag and allow the carriage of four British Aerospace Skyflash semi-active radar homing missiles (based on the American Sparrow) as well as additional fuel. Mk 104 engines, with longer afterburner nozzles, were optimized for high-altitude use. The IDS's ground-attack systems were replaced by a Marconi/Ferranti Foxhunter air-interception radar, and the port cannon was deleted. Despite extensive development problems with the Foxhunter radar, Tornado F3s finally reached service in 1984. In addition to the internal cannon, armament was originally four Skyflash and four AIM-9L Sidewinders, eventually replaced by AMRAAM medium-range and ASRAAM short-range missiles. Surviving aircraft have recently been modified to be able to fire the ALARM anti-radiation missile, and thus be able to take on the mission of Suppression of Enemy Air Defences or SEAD. There are also rumoured plans to equip the F3 with TIALD pods, giving them the ability to drop laser guided bombs, making them true multirole aircraft. The F3 is painted in standard air-defence grey. Although the F3 is capable of good high-altitude speed and has great endurance in stand-off interception, its high wing loading makes it substantially less agile than other modern fighters, limiting its dogfighting ability. British Tornado F3s are scheduled to be replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon as they come into service. Some original RAF F3s were loaned to the Italian Air Force as an interim replacement for the F-104 Starfighter, until the Eurofighter Typhoon enters service. However faced with delays to the Typhoon's In Service Date (ISD) the Italian Air Force has leased F-16s and returned the RAF aircraft.

Electronic Combat & Reconnaissance (ECR) - Germany, Italy


The ECR is primarily a SEAD aircraft. The aircraft features an emitter-locator system (ELS) which is capable of locating enemy radar sites. The ECR is equipped with the AGM-88 HARM. Luftwaffe ECRs were delivered new, Italy converted 16 IDSs.