Panavia Tornado GR4

  • Two-seat supersonic attack aircraft
  • Flies at low-level
  • 'Swing Wings' move in flight
  • Carries Cruise Missiles and
  • Laser- and GPS-guided bombs

Details

The Tornado GR4 is the latest version of the RAF's primary attack aircraft. Capable of supersonic speeds and flight at low-level, the aircraft is one of the most potent in the world today.

First deliveries to the RAF of the original GR1 version were made in 1980 where it replaced a number of older RAF aircraft including the Buccaneer and Vulcan as low-level attack aircraft. A major feature is the Tornado's 'swing wings' (or 'variable geometry' to give it its correct title). With the wings swept fully forward, the aircraft can fly very slowly - ideal for landing on short, unprepared runways. With the wings swept to their full 68, the aircraft can fly supersonically, whilst at the intermediate position the manoeuvrability is greatly increased - useful should the aircraft need to undertake rapid action during an attack. Another innovative feature of the Tornado is the ability to use thrust-reverse to shorten landings.

A programme to update many of the Tornado's weapons and navigation systems was completed in 2003 and these updated aircraft are known as Tornado GR4s. As well as the existing weapons carried by Tornados (such as the Paveway family of laser- and GPS-guided bombs and the ALARM anti-radar missile) a number of new weapons can now be used. These include the Storm Shadow stand-off (or 'cruise') missile and the RAPTOR reconnaissance pod - both of which were used for the first time during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and the forthcoming Brimstone anti-tank missile. Other improvements include GPS navigation and changes to the cockpit to allow the use of night-vision goggles.

A reconnaissance version of the Tornado GR4, the GR4A, is in service with the RAF.

Roles

  • Air Interdiction (AI). Low- or medium-level attacks using precision-guided, freefall or retarded bombs.
  • Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD - pronounced 'see-add'). Attacks on enemy air defence systems such as surface-to-air missile positions with ALARM missiles.
  • Reconnaissance (using an externally mounted pod).

Armament

One Mauser 27mm cannon and up to 18,000lb of ordnance. Available weapons include Paveway 2 or 3 laser-guided bombs, ballistic or retarded "dumb" 1000lb bombs, Cluster Bomb Units (CBU), Storm Shadow cruise missiles, Brimstone anti-tank missiles, Air Launched Anti-Radiation Missile (ALARM) anti-radar missiles. For self-defence, Sidewinder missiles are carried.

GR4 Specifications
Engines:
Two Turbo-Union RB199s

Length:
54ft 10in (16.70m)

Wingspan:
45ft 7in (13.90m) at 17 sweep; 28ft 2in (8.60m) at 68 sweep

Top Speed:
1,452mph (2,336km/h, Mach 2.2) at 36,000ft (11,000m); 710mph (1,140km/h) at sea-level

Crew:
Pilot and Weapons Systems Operator