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Panavia Tornado

Role: interdiction/strike/recce/air defense fighter
Builder: Panavia (BAe, DASA, Alenia)
Variants: IDS, ECR, ADV
Operators: United Kingdom (RAF), Germany (Luftwaffe and Marine Flieger), Italy, Saudi Aradia

IDS was the first production type developed from the MRCA (multi-role combat aircraft) program prototype. The IDS (interdictor/strike) variant is a true strike aircraft specialised at high speed low level flight with the variable wings and terrain following equipment.

The ADV (air defense variant) was developed for the air defense role. Primarily as an interceptor with look down shoot down capability to counter the threat of Soviet bombers. This variant features new engines for long high altitude flights and a longer airframe and nose to accommedate the Foxhunter air-to-air radar and Skyflash medium range air-to-air missiles.

The ECR (electronic combat and reconnaissance) version was a Tornado variant developed by the Germans for the reconnaissance role and suppression of enemy air defense with the AGM-88A HARM anti-radar missile.

GR.1 is the RAF designation for the RAF Tornado IDS aircraft. the GR.1A was a modified variant optimized for the recconnaisance role and the GR.1B for the maritime attack role equipped with Sea Eagle missiles. All GR.1 and GR.1B aircraft that remain in service, have been upgraded to GR.4 standard. All GR.1A have been upgraded to GR.4A, the reconnaissance version of the GR.4. The GR.4/4A update enables the RAF Tornado IDS aircraft to remain in service for at least another 10-15 years.

Germany's Mid Life Update (MLU) for the Tornado is in progress. And also the Italian Air Force (AMI) Tornado IDS and ECR are scheduled to receive a mid life update in the coming years. AMI Tornado F.3s that were leased from the RAF have been returned to the UK recently, and will be replaced by leased F-16s until the arrival of the Eurofighter Typhoon.

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picture courtesy of USAF

Copyright 2002-2004 Niels Hillebrand unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved.