Tornado, Panavia

Panavia Tornado variable-geometry aircraft Photo by Evert J. van Koningsveld.

Multi-role aircraft developed and built in cooperation with England, Germany and Italy. It is a compact twin-engined variable-geometry aircraft. The Tornado was also the first production military aircraft with flight-by-wire controls. There are strike-attack (IDS), air defence (ADV) and electronic warfare (ECR) versions. The ADV has an elongated nose. The original contractors bought 933 aircraft, but production is still underway for Saudi-Arabia. The IDS version is considered a very effective attack aircraft, but the ADV has been critized because it is a long-range interceptor with little capacity for dogfights. British IDS Tornadoes will be upgraded to GR.4 configuration. The loss of six Tornadoes during the 1992 Gulf War resulted in a storm of criticisim, most of it unjustified. The role it's used in and the design of the aircraft is comparable to the older U.S. F-111 Aardvark. The Tornado is probably one of the most versatile combat airplane ever built.

Type: Tornado F Mk.3
Function: fighter
Year: 1986
Crew: 2
Engines: 2 * 8530kg Turbo-union RB199-34R Mk.104
Wing Span: 13.91m /8.60m
Length: 18.08 m
Height: 5.95 m
Wing Area: 30.00 m2/
Empty Weight: 14501 kg
Max.Weight: 27987 kg
Speed: 2333 km/h
Ceiling: 21335 m
Range: 3600 km
Armament: 1*g27 mm msl

Type: Tornado GR.1
Function: attack
Year: 1982
Crew: 2
Engines: 2 * 71.4 kN Turbo-union RB199-34R Mk.101
Wing Span: 13.90m / 8.60m
Length: 16.70 m
Height: 5.70 m
Wing Area: 30 m2
Empty Weight:
Max.Weight: 27210 kg
Speed: 1480 km/h
Ceiling: 15240 m
Range: 3890 km
Armament: 2 * g27mm 8980kg

History of Development

The Tornado IDS is the baseline model that resulted from a 1968 feasibility study undertaken by the Belgian, British, Canadian, Dutch, Italian and West German governments for an advanced warplane to be designed, developed and built as collaborative venture with the object of providing the air forces of the partner nations with a STOL warplane able to undertake the close air support, battlefield interdiction, long-range interdiction, counter-air attack, air-superiority, interception and air defence, reconnaissance and naval strike roles.

Belgium and Canada withdrew at an early date, being followed by the Netherlands at a later date; this left Italy, the UK and West Germany to persevere with project definition from May 1969 and development from July 1970. The resulting MRCA- 75 (Multi-Role Combat Aircraft for 1975) was designed as a high-performance type with a fly-by-wire control system and advanced avionics for extremely accurate navigation and safe flight at supersonic speeds and very low levels in all weathers, this being deemed the only way to ensure pinpoint day/night first-pass attacks with a heavy (and highly diverse) warload against a variety of well defended targets. Design and development of the MRCA-75 was entrusted to Panavia, which was created in 1969 as a joint venture by Aeritalia (now Alenia), BAC (now BAe) and MBB (now DASA), while the parallel engine consortium was created as Turbo-Union by Fiat, MTU and Rolls-Royce. The two main subcontractors were IWKA-Mauser for the cannon and Elliott for the electronics, and government control was provided by the NAMMA organization established in 1970 to supervise each country's contribution, which was fixed at 42.5% each by the UK and West Germany, and 15% by Italy.

With the new warplane's roles finalized, the task of the design team was to create an airframe/powerplant/electronic combination able to fulfill the resulting requirement. This demanded five core capabilities: the ability to take-off and land in very short distances for continued operational capability even if the main runways were damaged, the ability to fly at high speed at very low level over long ranges without significant degradation of crew performance, the ability to undertake low-level penetrations of hostile air space by day and/or night under all weather conditions, the ability to hit any target with complete accuracy in a first-pass attack, and the ability to attain high supersonic speed at all altitudes. The aerodynamic core of the airframe demanded by these capabilities was a variable-geometry wing: in its minimum-sweep configuration of 25 degrees this would generate high lift at takeoff and landing (thereby reducing lift-off and touch-down speeds and consequently reducing runway requirements), and in its maximum-sweep configuration of 68 degrees it would produce low wave drag for high supersonic speed as well as low gust response for a smooth low-level ride.

The wing was also planned with extensive high-lift devices for further enhancement of its take-off and landing performance: these devices included double-slotted flaperons across virtually the full span of the variable-sweep trailing edges, automatically controlled slats across virtually the full span of the variable-sweep leading edges, and Krueger flaps under the leading edges of the fixed inboard wing sections. The primary flight-control surfaces were all powered, and the primary surfaces were the rudder and all-flying tailerons. The latter operated collectively for longitudinal control and differentially for lateral control, being augmented in the latter task by spoilers on the wing upper surfaces: these were designed to become operational only at sweep angles of 45 degrees and less, and to operate collectively as lift dumpers after touch-down.

Flight control was exercised via a fly-by-wire system operating in conjunction with a command stability augmentation system. The airframe was, of course, schemed in association with the powerplant and electronics. The powerplant was to comprise a pair of reheated turbofans of very low specific fuel consumption for long range and high afterburning thrust for maximum acceleration at take-off, and fitted with thrust-reversers for maximum reduction of the landing run. The avionics were based on an extremely advanced nav/attack system with fully automatic terrain-following capability to ensure all-weather penetration capability. Structural design was completed in August 1972, and the first of nine prototypes flew in April 1974, the type being named Tornado later in the same year. The Tornado IDS baseline warplane was ordered into production during July 1976, the first pre-production Tornado IDS flew in February 1977 and the type entered service in July 1980.
Aviation Top100 Home go back