The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine combat aircraft, which was jointly developed by the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. There are three primary versions of the Tornado; the Tornado IDS (Interdictor/Strike) fighter-bomber, the suppression of enemy air defences Tornado ECR (Electronic Combat/Reconnaissance) and the Tornado ADV (Air Defence Variant) interceptor. It is one of the world's most sophisticated and capable interdiction and attack aircraft, with a large payload, long range and high survivability.
Developed and built by Panavia, a tri-national consortium consisting of British Aerospace (then the British Aircraft Corporation), MBB of Germany, and Alenia Aeronautica of Italy, the Tornado first flew on August 14, 1974, and saw action with the RAF and AMI (Italian Air Force) in the Gulf War. International co-operation continued after its entry into service within the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment, a tri-nation training and evaluation unit operating from RAF Cottesmore, England. Including all variants, 992 aircraft were built for the three partner nations and Saudi Arabia.During the 1960s, aeronautical designers looked to variable geometry designs to gain the manoeuvrability and efficient cruise of straight wings with the speed of swept-wing designs. Britain and France initiated the AFVG (Anglo French Variable Geometry) project in 1965, which ended with French withdrawal in 1967. In 1968, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Canada formed a working group to examine replacements for the F-104 Starfighter, initially called the Multi Role Aircraft (MRA), and later called the Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA). Britain joined the MRCA group in 1968, and a memorandum of agreement was drafted between Britain, Germany, and Italy.
The program was intended to produce a single-seat replacement for the F-104G, and a two-seat strike fighter for Britain and Germany. Canada and Belgium pulled out in 1969. The four remaining partner nations - United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, formed Panavia Aircraft GmbH on 26 March 1969, though the Netherlands would pull out in 1970. The United Kingdom and Germany each had a 42.5% stake, with the remaining 15% going to Italy. The scope of work for production was also agreed upon - the front fuselage and tail assembly in the UK, the center fuselage in Germany, and the wings in Italy. A separate multinational company, Turbo Union, was formed in June 1970 to develop and build the RB199 engines for the aircraft, with ownership similarly split 40% Rolls-Royce, 40% MTU, and 20% FIAT.The Tornado was originally designed as a low-level supersonic ground attack bomber, capable of taking off and landing in short distances. This requires good high-speed and low-speed flying characteristics. In general, an aircraft which is designed to fly at high speeds usually has poor low-speed characteristics. In order to achieve the desired high-speed performance, an aircraft has a highly swept or 'delta' wing platform. However, these wing designs are very inefficient at low speeds where unswept wing planforms are required. In order for an aircraft to be operated efficiently at both high and low speeds, variable wing sweep is a desirable feature; this was incorporated into the Tornado design.
When the wings are swept back, the Tornado IDS increases its high-speed low-level capability by reducing drag. When sweeping, the wings partially slide into the fuselage, reducing the exposed wing area. This gives the aircraft a low gust response in turbulent low-level winds. This not only makes flight much more comfortable for the aircrew but makes the aircraft a more stable platform from which to aim and deliver unguided weapons at low level.
The aircraft was designed to be land-based and operate from large airfields that were considered to be vulnerable to aerial attack. Therefore, during the development of the aircraft, short field landing capability was considered essential in order to enable the aircraft to operate from short strips on potentially damaged runways and taxiways. With the wings swept fully forwards the Tornado IDS generates greater lift because of the increased exposed wing area and the utility of full-span flaps and slats. This gives greater lift at lower speeds, reducing the minimum landing speed required and therefore giving shorter landing distances.