The Panavia Tornado Multirole Fighter
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The Panavia Tornado Multirole Fighter

It is not a rare case that two or more nations would collaborate on each other to join their forces in developing a technology which will be of common benefit for their needs. Just like the case of the Concorde which brought the partnership of France and United Kingdom, a similar case led to the inception of the Panavia Tornado Multirole fighter. The alliance of nations which used to have their differences in time of war somehow resulted to a viable solution in time of peace.

Among 4th generation jet fighters, jet fighters which are in service from 1980s to the present, the Panavia Tornado could be considered one of the competitive type of fighters of European origin that equally rivals the fighter technology of the West employing the variable-geometry wing design. The Tornado's variable swept wing shares similarity with US fighters like the F-14 Tomcat, F-111 Aardvark and Soviet's Mig-23/27 Flogger ground attack, fighter bomber.

The Panavia Tornado came about as a joint effort between the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy to come up with specifications for a multi-role fighter to cater to each country's defence needs. Panavia Aircraft G mbh was established in 1969 originally participated by four major countries, namely; United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Netherlands to manufacture the aircraft dubbed as the MRCA (Multi Role Combat Aircraft). Netherlands left the consortium in 1970 leaving three major countries to pursue the program thus a finalized agreement resulted in the division of workload which delegated the manufacture of aircraft components for the project. When it was finally sorted, the fighter's front fuselage and empennage went to British Aircraft Corporation (now BAE Systems) to be manufactured, the main fuselage to MBB (Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm) of Germany which is now part of EADS, and the wings to Aeritalia (now Alenia Aeronautica) of Italy. A separate partnership to develop the engines for the project brought the experience of three big names in turbine technology from each of the three member nations to share their expertise, Rolls Royce from UK, MTU (later MTU Aero Engines) from Germany and FIAT (later Fiat Avio) from Italy thereby forming Turbo-Union. The only turbine engine manufactured by the company specialized for the Tornado, the RB 199 was one of the most modern turbine engines to be designed to allow part replacement in case of damage in hostile conditions with the advantage of its modular construction. The engine spawned six variants which addressed the variants of the fighter for which it was designed making the Tornado an uncontested multi-role fighter in its class.

There are three known variants of the type which currently remain at the hands of its operators as follows:

Tornado IDS – This variant of the type had been in service with the RAF as Tornado GR1 and later upgraded into the GR4 standard configuration which has anti-shipping and reconnaissance applications with low level upgraded to medium to high level capabilities.

Tornado ECR – This variant in service with the Italian and German Air Force was designed for offensive missions with the “Suppression of Enemy Air Defences” (SEAD) functions. Despite the similarity of the variant, each type differ in capabilities for both Italian and German operators.

Tornado ADV – The interceptor variant of the Tornado had been in use by the RAF, Royal Saudi Air Force and the Italian Air Force with upgraded engines that goes with this role. This type has extended body and fuel capacity with in-flight refuelling function for extended missions.

The first Tornado prototype took the air in 1974 and it would take 5 more years until the first production aircraft were turned over to the Royal Air Force (RAF) and German Air Force (Luftwaffe). The first batch of aircraft for Italy followed only in 1981. Combat involvement of the type could be seen from the world’s major conflicts over the past two decades specifically the Gulf War (1990-1991), Bosnian War (1992-1995), Kosovo War (1998-1999), Libyan Civil War (February –October 2011) and the campaign against Iraq (2003-2011) which placed them (all types and variants) in action and the satisfactory performance which allowed their continuing service for strategic and defence needs of their constituents (armed forces for which they had been attached). As of December 2011, the type continued to be in service with the Royal Air Force (UK-125 units), German Air Force (152 units), Italian Air Force (78 units) and the Royal Saudi Air Force (82 units).

Based on a Tornado IDS, the basic specifications of the type are as follows:

Length: 17.23 m (56 ft 6 in)

Height: 5.95 m (19 ft 6 in)

Empty Weight: 14,500 kg (31,973 lb)

MTOW: 28,000 kg (61,743 lb)

Power plant: 2 x Turbo-Union RB 199-34R turbofan engines rated at 40.5 kN (9,104 lbf) thrust without afterburner and 71.5 kN (16,073 lbf) thrust with afterburner.

Maximum speed: 2,300 km/h (1,428 mph)

Combat radius: 1,390 km ( 863 miles)


Fighter by Ralf Leinburger pp 292-293

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