Tornado Multi-Role Combat Aircraft [MRCA]
The Tornado started life as a joint venture between several European countries. In 1965 France and the UK signed a Memorandum of Agreement to co-develop a jet trainer and a variable geometry frontline fighter. The jet trainer development resulted in the Jaguar. However, France withdrew from the fighter program due to budget considerations. From 1967 to 1968 the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Germany, the UK and Canada participated in meetings to agree upon requirements for a multi-purpose fighter. Eventually, the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada withdrew leaving the UK, Germany and Italy.
The first discussions of a Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, the project from which Tornado emerged, a twin engine with variable geometry wing, began in July 1968 as the MRCA (Multi Role Combat Aircraft). In late 1968 and 1969 the UK, Germany and Italy put together an international consortium, named Panavia, to develop the Tornado, a Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA).
A new company called Panavia was set up to reflect this international partnership. The intention was to produce a two-man, multi-role aircraft for use in a European war between the Western European NATO alliance and the communist Warsaw Pact countries. Planning started in 1968, the first prototype flew in 1974 and it entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1980.
In 1965 France and the UK signed a Memorandum of Agreement to co-develop a jet trainer and a variable geometry frontline fighter. The jet trainer development resulted in the Jaguar. However, France withdrew from the fighter program due to budget considerations. From 1967 to 1968 the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Germany, the UK and Canada participated in meetings to agree upon requirements for a multi-purpose fighter. Eventually, the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada withdrew leaving the UK, Germany and Italy.
In late 1968 and 1969 the UK, Germany and Italy put together an international consortium, named Panavia, to develop the Tornado, a Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA). The international consortium was staffed and owned by the British Aircraft Corporation (42.5%), Messerschmitt Boelkow Blohm (42.5%) and Aeritalia (15%). To manage the consortium, the participating governments put together a high level committee of government officials, called the NATO MRCA Management Organization (NAI4)) to monitor the work of Panavia and the subcontractors. They organized a lower multinational agency called the NATO MRCA Management Agency (NAMMA) to oversee the day to day operations of Panavia. Early on in the program the participating governments agreed that decisions made at the government level would be made unanimously.
Rising costs and engine problems in the early and mid-1970s raised doubts that the MRCA would ever reach series production. The huge investment already made, however, weighed heavily in the final decisions to produce. The West German cabinet decided 10 April 1976 to go ahead with production of the multi-role combat aircraft, now dubbed the Tornado. The cabinet’s decision was approved by the Bundestag when it considered the matter in early May. Of the two other participating countries, London announced its decision to produce the aircraft in late March 1976 and there has been no formal announcement from Rome. The West German decision may speak for the Italians, however, since Bonn was already paying the relatively small Italian share of MRCA development costs.
The MRCA was Europe’s most ambitious multinational weapons development program. Because uncertainty had plagued the project from its beginnings in 1968, the decision to go ahead with production was a major victory for Panavia, the consortium responsible for overall development of the aircraft. A successful debut by the MRCA could be an important stimulus to the growth of collaborative weapons projects and to the principle of common procurement and standardization in Western Europe. Co-production was viewed as the only way for West European companies to remain competitive with the US in advanced weapons development and sales in the 1980s. The Panavia consortium may serve as a model for future West European joint military ventures.
Bonn's share of MRCA program costs was $6.2 billion, out of a total cost of over $13 billion. The program would provide 70,000 jobs for West German industry over the next 10 years. The unit cost of the MRCA was projected by the West Germans at $10.6 million — more than double the original estimate in 1970 of $4.6 million — but even the new price was probably understated. It did not include the necessary spare parts, ground-support equipment, and research and development costs; these would bring the cost to over $19 million a copy. The cost of the closest comparable fighter, the US F-111, was about $15.6 million. Exports outside the Anglo - West German - Italian consortium would lengthen production runs and, thereby, lower unit costs.
By 1976 the MRCA program was about four years behind schedule. Most recently, the flight-test phase had been slowed because of problems with the aircraft’s Rolls Royce engine and the crash in February of an Italian prototype. Although Bonn reportedly would start getting ready for series production in July 1976, the air force and navy would not receive their first fighter-bombers until 1979.
Over 800 of the swing-wing aircraft would be produced for the three nations participating in the program. West Germany and Italy would produce 322 and 100 MRCAs, respectively, to replace their F-104G fighters. The British would build 385 MRCAs, of which 165 would be the specialized air-defense version. The British MRCAs will replace several older aircraft, including F-4 interceptors, Buccaneer fighter-bombers, and the Vulcan and Canberra bombers. There are three assembly lines for the Tornado, one in each of the participating countries at the factory of each of the partner companies. Each of the partner companies also has primary responsibility for the production of a main section or component of the aircraft. A similar multi-national corporate scheme, headquartered in the UK, produces the RB 199-34R Mk 101 and Mk 103 engines, two of which power each Tornado.
Thus, the Tornado is:
- A German aircraft, assembled in Germany and flown by the Luftwaffe and the Bundesmarine (Federal German Navy);
- A British aircraft, assembled in the UK. and flown by the RAF;
- An Italian aircraft assembled in Italy, and flown by the Italian Air Force, and;
- An international aircraft assembled in three countries under the guidance of an inter-national corporation, and containing parts manufactured in each of these participating nations and elsewhere
It could be sold in other countries providing that all three partners approve. In 1980 proposals at a West German SPD conference, which in turn went to the West German Government, would restrict sales of the Tornado anywhere outside the NATO countries. The aircraft was a serious contender in 1980 for Canadian and Australian orders. Canada, Australia, Greece and Japan had expressed interest in the MRCA, but none bought in. Oman signed a contract with Panavia in 1985 for the purchase of eight ADV aircraft, but the deal fell through.
Saudi Arabia was the only country to buy the Tornado, apart from the original three European partners. The Saudis received the first of their 96 aircraft in 1986. The Saudi Tornados would have the systems and components contained in the British assembled-RAF flown aircraft. The airframes would be produced in all three partner countries, but procurement of the subsystems would be done by the British and not Panavia. The first 20 planes were being prepared in March 1986 by British Aerospace at Warton, England for delivery to the Saudis.
Designed and built as a collaborative project in the UK, Germany and Italy, the Tornado is in service with all three air forces and the German Navy. Tornado is also in service in Saudi Arabia. It is a twin-seat, twin-engined, variable geometry aircraft and is supersonic at all altitudes. The design authority for the Tornado is Panavia, the tri-national consortium which comprises British Aerospace, DASA of Germany and the Italian firm Alenia.
The program experienced some cost escalations and schedule slippages. However, over 800 aircraft were produced including those for two EMS sales to Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, the Government committees (NAMMA and NAMMA) and the Panavia Consortium were revised for the Saudi Arabian sale. Saudi Arabia contracted with the UK for the aircraft who in turn contracted with British Aerospace Corporation. Messerschmitt and Aeritalia served as sub-contractors to British Aerospace for the Saudi program.
Following are some problems identified:
- Political factors contributed to the inherently unwieldy managerial process. All of the nations wanted their industries to win the contracts with the largest amount of technology and labor hours.
- Original work share percentages were hard to attain and maintain and had to be renegotiated.
- The governments divided development and production costs in ways that were intrinsically expensive. For example, the governments designated the firms that were to participate in the program. Competition among vendors resulted in contract awards for major subcontracts, but the consortium was often required to provide smaller contracts to firms that had been unsuccessful in the principle competition.
- Management by committee and complexity of the industrial and governmental management organizations made the process of decision making more difficult and time consuming. For example, all of the purchasing decisions had to be reached unanimously by the member firms of Panavia and members of NAMMA.
- Cost increases caused budgetary problems in Germany resulting in cancellation of other German military programs so they could still back the Tornado. If participants want to subsidize their industries, details and cost consequences need to be detailed up-front in the program.
The Tornado was started one year before the F-15, but the F-15 was in service six years earlier than the Tornado. The F16 was ordered two years later than the Tornado, yet it was in service 18 months before the Tornado. The unit costs are strictly comparable one with the other in pounds per aircraft weight, but in terms of the ability to get there on time it is a matter of management and of delegating.
In terms of the number of aircraft built and delivered, Tornado remains Europe's largest military aircraft co-operation program. Over 950 Aircraft have been delivered to the Air Forces of Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The European Fighter Aircraft (EFA) program benefited from the European’s previous experience with the PANAVIA “Tornado” with respect to the currency exchange prob1em—a problem which resulted from variability in the relative values of national currencies. No national currency will cross national borders, as each country will pay for the EFA work done in its own territory according to its share of the program.
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