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Tornado Multi-Role Combat Aircraft [MRCA] - Design

The Tornado is generally acknowledged to be an excellent warplane, capable of accomplishing the tasks it was designed to do and exceeding several of its required performance standards. The Tornado's two after-burning jet engines, seen in action here, allow it to reach a maximum speed of mach 2.2 (2335 km/h or 1450 mph). It was the first fighter built with fly-by-wire technology and was designed with terrain following radar for fast, low-altitude flight so it could avoid radar detection and then drop a bomb load of up to 18,000 pounds. The wings of the the aircraft are high-mounted, variable, swept-back, and tapered with angular, blunt tips.

There are two turbofan engines inside the body. The air intakes are diagonal and box-like alongside the fuselage forward of the wing roots. There are twin exhausts. The fuselage is solid and has a needle nose. The body thickens midsection and tapers to the tail section. There is a bubble cockpit. The tail is tall, swept-back, and has a tapered fin with a curved tip and a step in the leading edge. The flats are large, mid-mounted on the body, swept-back, and tapered with blunt tips.

The Tornado carried terrain-following radar that could fly it under enemy radar, and could vary its wingspan from 8.5 to 14 meters. Swing wings are a very complex technology to get right, and add a considerable amount of weight to the plane for the motors to move the wings. The designers decided to go with this troublesome technology because it allows the plane to take off and land at lower speeds than a swept wing plane, while still permitting the high speed performance of such an aircraft. These factors were considered important for a plane which might have to take off from runways damaged by enemy missiles or bombs. The thrust reversers visible at the rear allow the plane to land on the same damage-shortened runways it took off from, but they produce a characteristic sooty patch on the tail from the hot gases which are directed forwards.

The Tornado Interdictor Strike (IDS) and Air Defense Variant (ADV) use similar airframes and the same engines and aircraft systems, but different radar, avionics software and weapon suites. Both versions of the Tornado feature two crew positions, two engines, short takeoff and landing performance, fly-by-wire controls, and an aerial refueling probe.

The Tornado IDS attacks targets with high accuracy in all weather conditions. It carries a spectrum of weapons and defensive aids and is highly survivable by virtue of its automatic terrain-following and electronic counter-measure systems. The Tornado IDS carries two internally mounted guns and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for self defense. The aircraft is guided by an accurate, fully autonomous navigation system.

The Tornado ADV provides autonomous, all-weather air defense. It can patrol for more than two hours at 350 nautical miles from base and can climb to 30,000 feet in under two minutes. The ADV detects targets more than 100 nautical miles away and engages those targets beyond visual range. It is equipped with a secure data link for integrated tactical scenarios and has a multiple-target track-while-scan radar with high electronic countermeasure resistance. The Tornado ADV features tactical air-to-air displays. It can launch four medium-range Skyflash missiles at four targets in close succession. It carries all-aspect Sidewinder missiles and a 27mm gun for close-in combat. The four Skyflash missile locations recessed into the bottom of the fuselage, together with the four rails on the wings for sidewinder missiles, and two pylons for extra fuel tanks clearly identify this aircraft as an interceptor or fighter, rather than the fighter/bomber or reconnaissance versions.

After the successful implementation of the ASSTA1 (Avionic System Software Tornado ADA) Mid Life Upgrade Programme, Italy and Germany decided to further improve the Tornado Weapon System in order to fully cope with the new Operational Requirements. On the basis of the ASSTA1 improvements, which were implemented until year 2000 shown below, the ASSTA2-package were installed up until the end of 2007.

Only half of the 200 German Tornados scheduled for modernization were re-equipped. The procurement of the Eurofighter, much to the relief of Germany's partners, would stay at 180. Planned German defense cuts run deeper than those announced in December 2002. Various drafts were in circulation in the defense planning establishment, suggesting the scrapping of the German navy's 50 Tornado fighter-bombers.

On 21st February 2013 the MET 27 contract was signed between NETMA, represented by the General Manager, Jesus Prieto Pinillos, and Panavia, represented by the Managing Director, Dr. Welf-Werner Degel. The agreement demonstrates a commitment by all parties in achieving continued efficiencies on the program; long-term support for the sustainability of aircraft and capability upgrades of the platform.

The objective of MET Contract Annex 27 is the integration of the two new Weapons, namely the Advanced Anti Radiation-Guided- Missile (AARGM) and the Small-Diameter-Bombs (SDBs) on the Tornado RET 7 and RET 8 configuration. The MET Contract Annex 27 covers a three years implementation activity plus flight test activity: the Integration activities of both Weapons in a common Software load with one unique Panavia Service Release Recommendation (PSRR) by December 2015 (36 months activity, the activity has already launched by an ITP on November 2012). All the Panavia Partner Companies are involved, mainly Alenia Aermacchi and CASSIDIAN as well as the suppliers BOING and ATK.

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Page last modified: 29-05-2013 18:45:38 ZULU