In the early 1970s, the Soviet Air Force must have been considerably agitated by the threat posed to its ground forces by almost 500 Tornado fighter/strike aircraft which would be available by the late 1980s-aircraft, indeed, which could fly well under the maximum height of the existing F-lll swing-wing and, while doing so, outrun every type of fighter in the Soviet inventory. Tasked with designing new warplanes with the ability to intercept such high-speed low-level targets, the Mikoyan and Sukhoi design bureaux would immediately have realised that many of the numerical specifications contained in the top-secret directive could be summed up in just two words-"Stop Tornado!"
But they would have known, too, that, with its advanced avionics and two-man crew able to share the demanding workload of low-level navigation and attack, the European aircraft would be difficult to stop. The only consolation faced by the Soviet designers as they developed the new MiG- and Su-series fighters was that slippages in the timescale of the Tornado programme would delay Tornado's deployment to the point where the intended counterweapons could be fielded on a near-compatible timescale. Had the European aircraft entered service in the late 1970s as originally planned, the technological gap between the Soviet and NATO air arms would have been impossible to close for the best part of a decade.
The days when strike aircraft could rely on speed and height to give immunity to interception are long since over. Only by flying just above the ground, so that it is exposed only fleetingly to defensive fire and its radar echo is swamped by returns from the ground, can a modern fighter hope to survive. This mode of flight was the key element in planning when the nations of Western Europe considered their fighter requirements for the late 1970s and beyond.
When the air arms of Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands set out in the late 1960s to plan a successor to their F-104G Starfighter fleets, the United Kingdom at first showed little interest. Following the French decision in July 1967 to withdraw from the Anglo/French Variable Geometry Combat Aircraft (AFVG) programme, the UK attempted to salve its injured pride by pursuing a national project-the British Aircraft Corporation Advanced Combat Aircraft.
Given the UK political climate of the mid-to-late 1960s, the prospects for a national project were not good, so the UK eventually opted in July 1968 to join with the governments of West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada (the last two subsequently dropping out) in signing a Memorandum of Understanding on a new multi-role combat aircraft for service in 1975. In March 1968, the Panavia consortium was created to tackle the task of creating the new warplane. Two months later, the UK, West Germany and Italy formally committed themselves to the definition phase of the project.
The Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) was ambitious both in timescale and performance. Working to a timescale more typical of a US project, the partners hoped to create an advanced variable-geometry strike fighter able to engage and destroy targets in a single pass in any type of weather. Almost inevitably the time-scale slipped badly, with Tornado squadrons not becoming operational until 1983. The high inflation rate of the early 1970s also played havoc with costs. Despite such problems, the project ran more smoothly than many might have dared to predict, creating a combat aircraft able to fly under-the-radar missions at heights well below those possible in the USAF's F-lll.
In addition to contributing the configuration of its own variable-geometry Advanced Combat Aircraft (АСА) design, the [ UK also added another vital component to the MRCA project-the lightweight and compact Rolls-Royce RB.199 three-shaft turbofan.
Project definition work was completed in April 1970, allowing the three governments formally to launch development of the aircraft a month later. By this time, the West German Luftwaffe had abandoned its requirement for a single-seat variant, allowing the design effort to be focussed on the definitive two-seater.
The first of nine prototypes flew for the first time in August 1974, and an order was placed for the first batch of aircraft in July 1976. Pre-series aircraft began flying in February of the following year, and the first production British and West German examples flew in July 1979. A year later, delivery of production aircraft to the Tri-national Tornado Training Establishment had begun, and the user air arms could begin training on the new type.
Six production batches are planned-a total of 644 made up of 324 (West Germany), 220 (UK) and 100 (Italy). In order to keep annual costs within the national budgets of the partners, the annual production rate is being deliberately held to 44 (UK) 42 (W. Germany) and 24 (Italy). More than 300 Tornados have already been delivered, and the current order book should keep the line busy until the end of the decade.
The high cost of Tornado ($16.6 million flyaway cost for an IDS, according to German figures), has prevented adoption of this versatile aircraft by nations outside the original consortium. It was evaluated and subsequently rejected by Australia, Canada and Spain, all of whom purchased the F-18 Hornet. The last chance of another sale within Nato is the Greek Air Force, which has expressed a requirement for at least 60 new fighters. Greece has been offered a substantial offset deal including co-production, but a decision has been repeatedly postponed.
Studies of a dedicated ECM variant have been carried out since the late 1970s, but no decision seems likely in the near future. Only the West German Luftwaffe is reported to have a requirement for such an aircraft.
Production of the Tornado airframe is shared between the three member nations of the consortium. Main contractors are Aeritalia (outer wings), British Aerospace (front fuselage, rear fuselage and tail), and MBB (fuselage centre section, including the intakes and wing box).
The wing inboard section has a leading-edge sweep of 60deg, and incorporates a wing box manufactured from titanium using electro-beam welding techniques. This was a bold move-the earlier F-lll used steel for this critical component, a conservative choice which did not prevent problems due to cracking. A small Krueger flap is built into the leading edge. The outboard wing panels are made from aluminium alloy, and are pivoted hydrauli-cally on Teflon-coated bearings through leading edge sweep angles ranging from 25 to 68deg. The outer wings have full-span leading-edge slats and full-span double-slotted trailing-edge flaps. There are no ailerons, but spoilers are provided to augment roll control by the tailerons, and to kill lift after touchdown.
Operating differentially, the all-moving horizontal tail surfaces (tailerons) provide control in roll, but act as elevators when operated together. The sheer size of the single vertical fin gives an indication of the control demands of a highly-manoeuvrable Mach 2 design. (US and Soviet designers currently favour twin vertical tails in order to provide the necessary area.) All control surfaces are hydrauli-cally actuated.
The fuselage is of conventional design, and is made largely from aluminium alloy. The nose radome swings to starboard to give access to the radar during maintenance. To minimise drag, it is essential that the gap between the fixed inner and movable outer wing sections be closed over all sweep angles. This is achieved using elastic seals.
All versions of the Tornado, including the Royal Air Force's specialised Air-Defence Variant, are powered by the Turbo-Union RB.199. A full description of this revolutionary engine-the world's first three-spool military turbofan-is given in the Tornado ADV entry (see page 159).
Heart of the avionics suite is the navigation and terrain-following radar. This was designed by Texas Instruments, but is being produced under licence by a European industrial team headed by AEG-Telefunken and including Elettronica, Ferranti, FIAR, Marconi, and Siemens. In the final stages of an attack, this works in conjunction with a nose-mounted Ferranti laser-ranger and marked-target seeker.
Primary navaid is the Ferranti FIN 1010 three-axis digital INS, although the aircraft also carries a Decca Type 72 Doppler radar. All data is processed to improve navigational accuracy. The aircraft is fitted with a Litef Spirir 3 16-bit central computer. A large array of displays is needed to cope with the data from these systems. These include a Smiths/Teledix/OMI HUD of advanced design, and TV tabular displays developed by Marconi Avionics.
The flight-control system is complex, and the work of many companies. It includes a triplex command stability augmentation system (Marconi Avionics/ Bodenseewerk), an autopilot and flight director (Marconi Avionics/Aeritalia), air data set (Microtecnica), and a standby attitude and heading reference system (Litef). Release of ordnance is handled by a Marconi Avionics/Selenia stores management system.
Very little information is available on the Tornado's self-protection ECM systems. The radar-warning receiver was developed by AEG-Telefunken, Elettronica, and Marconi Space and Defence Systems, and uses antennas mounted in a fairing near the top of the vertical fin.
The designation EL-73 has been reported for an EW system developed by AEG-Telefunken and Elettronica for use on Tornado. This is reported to be an internally-mounted jamming system.
British Tornados will be fitted with the Marconi Space and Defence Systems Sky Shadow-the most advanced self-protection ECM pod in the Western world, according to the RAF. Capable of operating in noise or deception modes, it can deploy its transmitters against hostile ground and airborne surveillance and tracking radars. Built-in receivers are used to "look-through" the jamming signals in order to assess the effectiveness of the current operating mode. If the systems under attack show no sign of being disrupted, Sky Shadow can automatically alter the type of jamming being used until the best result is obtained. Being software-controlled, it can be re-programmed to cope with advances in enemy equipment and tactics.
The proposed electronic-warfare version of Tornado being studied by MBB would carry a version of the ALQ-99 jamming system fitted to the Grumman EA-6B and EF-111A. The US company is collaborating with MBB on studies of this scheme.
The range of stores which may be carried by Tornado is huge, varying according to the operator and the mission to which the aircraft is assigned. The aircraft's avionics allow high accuracy attacks to be carried out even with conventional free-falling or retarded bombs. During early weapon trials, bombs released at low altitude scored hits or near-misses against a 10ft (3m) diameter target. During toss-bombing attacks against similarly small targets some 3 to 4 miles (5 to 6.5km) away from release point, the ordnance impacted within 30ft (9m) of the aiming point.
Guided weapons available for use on the Tornado include the AIM-9 Sidewinder (for self-defence), the Texas Instruments Paveway LGB, Hughes AGM-65 Maverick, and Rockwell International GBU-15 glide bomb. Specialised anti-ship missiles include the MBB Kormoran and BAe Sea Eagle. Kormoran Mk 1 is used by the German Navy and Italian Air Force, and a Mk 2 model with an improved seeker is now under development.
Britain and West Germany have developed specialised sub-munition dispensers. The MBB MW-1 fires 112 individual submunitions in a sideways direction, the firing pattern and type of munition being selected according to the target. Anti-armour and anti-runway payloads are available. The Hunting Engineering JP-233 is specifically intended for anti-airfield use, and releases two patterns of submuni-tion, one intended to break up the runway suface, and the other an anti-personnel grenade designed to deter attempts to repair the damaged strip.
These British and German weapons both involve flying close to or even over the target under attack, but the idea of attempting this in the face of new-generation point-defence systems in any aircraft-let alone in an aircraft as expensive as Tornado-seems ill-conceived. The USAF was originally a partner in the JP233 project but withdrew in the late 1970s, considering such attack patterns to be impractical.
Low-altitude flight at high speeds imposes severe stress on the structure of an aircraft, but Tornado is built strong enough to cope with Mach 1.2 flight at low level. Any MiG-21 pilot lucky enough to locate the Panavia aircraft in ground-skimming flight at heights of down to 200ft (60m) will find that the NATO aircraft can outrun him with ease, maintaining a speed advantage of up to lOOkt (185km/h) in clean condition. The more powerful MiG-23 might be able to maintain similar speeds, but if not within firing range would find it impossible to gain on the Tornado.
Handling qualities under other flight conditions were in no way compromised to gain this level of performance. Unlike some other "hot" aircraft, Tornado holds no terrors for the average squadron pilot. For take-off, the engines are run up to full dry thrust, then full reheat is selected. Liftoff is normally at around 150kt (280km/h), the nose being lifted to around lOdeg angle of attack. Once airborne, the pilot can again select dry thrust; the twin RBl99s have more than enough power to take the aircraft to the Mach 0.8/500kt (926km/h) maximum indicated airspeed for forward-swept wings.
The fly-by-wire system does much to maintain the handling qualities of Tornado over a wide range of flight conditions. Between Mach 0.5 and 1.0, for example, the maximum roll rate remains constant at 0 to 4g not only for all altitudes and wing-sweep positions, but also with all weapon loads. Stick forces are moderate, stiffening but remaining excellent even at supersonic speeds.
If the aircraft must be manoeuvred hard during combat, full afterburner would be selected, along with the intermediate (45deg) sweep angle. In this condition the aircraft can be taken to Mach 1.45/600kt (l,112km/h), although the full 67deg sweep gives better acceleration at transonic and supersonic speeds. Maximum speed with external stores is Mach 0.9, but in clean condition, pre-series aircraft have clocked up Mach 2.2 at altitude.
Full rudder may be used throughout the envelope, even at Mach 2, while the flight-control system progressively reduces the available roll and yaw as a precaution against spins. The pilot is thus free to manoeuvre in order to get the best out of his mount. There are no changes in trim resulting from changing the sweep angle or operating the airbrakes. The latter may be selected at any time; the maximum allowable airbrake angle is varied automatically according to airspeed.