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Tornado Tactical Air Reconnaissance

The Recce Tornado is specially equipped for its role. The RAF Version GR4A with internal infrared and linescanner systems plus an external RAPTOR-Pod. The GAF Version is equipped with daylight camera systems and Infrared-Linescanner. Tactical Air Reconnaissance is the collection of information of intelligence interest either by visual observation or through the use of sensors. Joint Force Commanders (JFC) need TAR to assess the enemy's capabilities and intentions, to assist the planning and targeting cycle, to support the weapon and platform selection, and to conduct Battle Damage Assessment (BDA). TAR can be executed as Stand-Of RECCE, Penetrating RECCE or RECCE Attack Interface.

High speed, low-altitude penetrating missions are employed in high threat (wartime) environments to collect imagery directly over targets (nadir ± 5,000 ft swath width). Altitude ranges of 200-3,000 ft are typical, as are high velocity/range (V/R) ratio operation. Due to the short range to target and high V/R, low altitude sensors are based on short focal length optical systems. Medium altitude missions are used to collect imagery for both overflight and standoff missions. In general, medium altitude operations are in the range of 2,500-25,000 ft. In high threat environments, an aircraft would fly a low-altitude penetration mission, pop-up to medium altitude to quickly image the area of interest, and then revert to low-altitude for safe exit. In lower threat environments, the platform may fly at medium altitude and image at either nadir (overflight) or at left, right or forward oblique (standoff).

LOROP (LOng-range Oblique Photographic) sensors systems are utilized to image at long-range in peacetime as well as in threat environments. The high altitude category is generally applied to systems typically operating in the 20,000-50,000 foot range (and above on special mission platforms). The fundamental design characteristic to support long-range operations is focal length. LOROP’s employ focal lengths of 36-inches or greater. LOROP collections are generally at standoff ranges starting from 5 to 10 miles out to the horizon.

The Tornado Recce is slightly modified from the standard version of the multi-purpose all-weather fighter aircraft tornado. It gets its name from the Recon with the capability of automatic terrain following low altitude flight . The Tornado recce is able to use cannons and optionally carried air-to-air missiles to defend against threats from enemy aircraft. The machines used for reconnaissance in Germany are removed from the available stock of Tornado IDS and upgraded by the installation of sensors and controls for the cultivation of awareness needed to use container for reconnaissance aircraft.

The GE RECCE [German Reconnaissance] Tornado successfully proved the importance of TAR during the NATO operations "Enduring Freedom" and "Allied Force": the use of its integrated sensors allowed the Tornado to fulfil its task by day and night, and at low and medium altitude. The two-man concept was especially helfjul when visual observation/target updating was required. In addition, the capabilities of the GE RECCE Tornado are very frequently required to support national duties, such as assisting police operations or dealing with catastrophes.

Honeywell won a $60 million development contract for a new infrared linescanner system for the West German Air Force's in 1986. The development of a new generation reconnaissance pod for the German Air Force started in 1994. The pod will be carried on the centerline station of the IDS Tornado. The pod contains two optical, aerial film cameras and one infrared linescanner with digital tape recording for eg. on-board image exploitation. Deutsche Aerospace AG (DASA) is the prime contractor for the overall reconnaissance program which includes a ground exploitation system. The delivery of the first series system began in 1998.

The Tornado, also known as the MRCA (Multi Role Combat Aircraft), is optimized for the extreme low level flight. In addition to manual flying at heights up to 100 feet (30 m) ensures an automatic terrain following system consisting of the Terrain Following Radar, a radar altimeter, and the flight control computer automatic low-level flight to 60 feet above ground, in bad weather or night. Fly-by-wire control system with mechanical backup, and thrust reversers for short landing distances.

The GR Mk1A was a dedicated reconnaissance variant with the two 27mm Mauser cannons deleted and replaced by three Vinten Linescan infra-red sensors. Nevertheless, the aircraft retained the capability to carry the full range of external stores and conduct offensive sorties. British Aerospace Dynamics receive a project definition study contract for the militarised infrared linescanner (MIRLS) in 1983. A total of 28 aircraft saw RAF service, 12 were GR1 conversions and 16 were new built, with 2 and 13 Squadrons. The Tornado GR1A was a world leader in the field of all-weather, day and night tactical reconnaissance. The GR1A had no cannons mounted in the forward fuselage. Replacing these are a Sideways Looking Infra-Red system and a Linescan infra-red surveillance system. This is the major point of identification between the GR1 and GR1A, because the systems require a small window in the side of the fuselage, just below the cockpit. The standard Tornado GR1 and the Jaguar could also fulfil tactical reconnaissance tasks when equipped with a Vicon camera pod.

In addition to its long-range, high-speed precision strike capability, including supersonic at low level with a low-level combat radius of 400nmls, the Tornado GR4 is a world leader in the specialised field of all-weather, day and night tactical reconnaissance. The new RAPTOR (Reconnaissance Airborne Pod TORnado) pod is one of the most advanced reconnaissance sensors in the world and greatly increased the effectiveness of the aircraft in the reconnaissance role. Its introduction into service gave the GR4 the ability to download real-time, long-range, oblique-photography data to ground stations or to the cockpit during a mission. The stand-off range of the sensors also allows the aircraft to remain outside heavily defended areas, thus minimising the aircraft’s exposure to enemy air-defence systems.

As of 2013 the RAF operated approximately 24 specially equipped Tornado GR4A tactical reconnaissance aircraft from RAF Marham in Norfolk. The aircraft are split equally between two squadrons No II (AC) and XIII. The aircraft differ from the ordinary strike Tornado by the fitting of the Tornado Infra-Red Reconnaissance System (TIRRS). The TIRRS consists of three sensors, a recording facility and various cockpit controls and displays to accommodate the additional equipment both guns were removed from all the aircraft.

In early 2005 it was reported that that UK funding for the the Infrared Linescanner (IRLS) system had been withdrawn from 1 Sep 04 and the system had been retired. The RAPTOR (Reconnaisance Pod for Tornado) will now be the main reconnaissance sensor carried by the Tornado GRA4s.

The need for a medium level imaging capability for the Tornado became evident during the Gulf War and subsequent operations over Bosnia and Iraq. RAPTOR, Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado, was a competition conducted by the UK MOD. Raytheon conducted the UK flight demonstration as part of their strategy for the UK RAPTOR program. Raytheon was selected for RAPTOR and supplied a total of eight airborne systems and two data link ground stations. After the RAPTOR award, the Royal Air Force used the Raytheon DB-110 pod in 1998 to conduct additional flight trials. Over thirty flights were made, the objectives of which were to broaden the RAF’s experience of EO/IR LOROP operations to “risk-reduce” the main procurement program, support operator training, and CONOPS development.

Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado, RAPTOR, which is built by the Goodrich Corporation, is a new stand-off electro-optical and infrared (IR), long-range oblique-photography pod fitted to the Tornado GR4. The RAPTOR pod uses Goodrich's DB-110 dual band sensor. The system combines electro-optical and infrared imaging capabilities in a compact design that fits many different types of aircraft. The DB-110 is the first LOROP (long-range oblique) sensor to provide both long-range and short-range optics to support standoff and penetrating missions, respectively.

The images received by the pod can be transmitted via a real-time data-link system to image analysts at a ground station, or can be displayed in the cockpit during flight. The imagery can also be recorded for post-flight analysis. The RAPTOR system can create images of hundreds of separate targets in one sortie; it is capable of autonomous operation against preplanned targets, or it can be re-tasked manually for targets of opportunity or to select a different route to the target. The stand-off range of the sensors allows the aircraft to remain outside heavily-defended areas, to minimise the aircraft’s exposure to enemy air-defense systems.

The RAPTOR pod contains a dual-band (visible and IR) sensor, which is capable of detecting and identifying small targets from either short range or long range and from medium or high altitudes, by day or by night. The optical sensors gather high-resolution, motion-free images of extraordinary detail. The optical images are supported by IR imagery that can reveal differences in the shape, composition or content of objects from their thermal signatures. Daytime IR also offers superior haze-penetration in poor weather conditions, while the night time imagery can reveal details such as the fuel levels in storage tanks. The aircraft weapon systems officer controls the RAPTOR system using a realtime cockpit video display, enabling verification of target acquisition, and the conduct of tasks such as battle-damage assessment, or recording the images on digital tape for further in-depth, post-operation analysis.

From 2009 the Royal Airforce Tornado GR4s provided intelligence support to the British and Coalition Forces based out in Afghanistan. Using Goodrich-built Raptor (Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado) sensors, the GR4 typically carried out up to 5 sorties a week, providing high-quality photographic and infrared (IR) imagery covering a large area. They were extensively used in a counter-IED (Improvised Explosive Device) role which continuing to provide close air support. Some of the largest RAPTOR collection deck (collection sorties) ever flown were undertaken to provide counter-IED support.

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Page last modified: 29-05-2013 18:45:33 ZULU