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Interesting facts about the Panavia Tornado

The Panavia Tornado is the aircraft that belongs to the family of the multirole combat aircraft which have twin engines and variable swept wings. The aircraft was design and manufactured under a joint program of the United Kingdom, West Germany, and Italy. There happen to be three main variants of the Panavia Tornado which are as follows.

  • Panavia Tornado IDS (Indicator/Striker); a fighter bomber
  • Panavia Tornado ECR (Electronic Combat/Reconnaissance; the suppressor for the enemy defense
  • Panavia Tornado ADV (Air Defence Variant); to act as the interceptor aircraft

The company behind the creation of Panavia Tornado was Panavia Aircraft Gmbh which happens to be the tri-national consortium that consists of following companies of the three aforementioned nations.

  • British Aerospace
  • MBB of West Germany
  • Italy’s Aeritalia

The first successful flight from a Panavia Tornado took place on August 14th, 1974 and it was entered into the operational service back in 1979. The multirole design of Panavia Tornado allowed for it to replace the much older aging aircraft in the fleet the 3 air forces. The aircraft was only put up for export to one other air force which was the RSAF (Royal Saudi Air Force).

The following three air forces operated the Panavia Tornado during the 1991’s Gulf War.

  • RAF (Royal Air Force)
  • IAF (Italian Air Force)
  • RSAF (Royal Saudi Air Force)

During this conflict, the Panavia Tornado flew for many penetration strike missions on low altitude. In addition to this, many of the Panavia Tornado variants served in the following conflicts.

  • Bosnian War
  • Kosovo War
  • Iraq War
  • Libyan Civil War
  • Small role during the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan

All in all nearly 922 of these aircraft were built by the Panavia Aircraft Gmbh.

For our readers today, we bring to you some of the amazing and interesting facts about the Panavia Tornado.


The working on the project of the Panavia Tornado started during the later years of the Cold War by the consortium of three European aviation companies from the UK, West Germany, and Italy. The company formed by the joint cooperation was named Panavia Aircraft Gmbh and was formed back on 29th March 1969 with the headquarters of the company being based in Hallbergmoos, Bavaria located in Germany.

Used during the Cold War for a possible World War 3:-

The company designed the Panavia Tornado to act as the strike fighters for penetration missions that were able to operate from even the damaged or short length runways. The aircraft was designed to serve as the main strike force of the European countries during the time when the threat of World War 3 was imminent. During this time, the Panavia Tornado did perform its role well for being a deterrent. It was intended to be the first line of the strike system in case the Cold War started to get hot. Since then, Panavia Tornado has continued its service with the UK, Italy, and Germany and in recent times with Saudi Arabia; the only exporter of the aircraft.

First Flight & Design:-

The very first prototype of the Panavia Tornado took its first flight to the skies on 14th August 1974 and as for the air force ready units, their manufacturing started back in 1980 and in the same year, they were introduced for operational service.

The radar of the Panavia Tornado was the Texas Instruments that has a terrain-following system along with the capability to do the ground mapping. As for the flight controls, they were aided by the fly0-by-wire system with a center-mounted control tick. The twin-seat aircraft had seat ejectors for both seats. Pilots were able to navigate the aircraft through the help of the digital INS (Inertial Navigation System).


The Panavia Tornado underwent evolution into many variants during its service but the following 3 became the primary variants for the Panavia Tornado.

  • A striker oriented Panavia Tornado known as IDS
  • The aircraft for electronic combat and reconnaissance the Panavia Tornado ECR
  • The interceptor variant; the Panavia Tornado ADV

The airframes of the IDS and the ECR variants shared as close as 80 percent similarity with the difference being that IDS could deliver ordnance of all types including the bombs and guided missiles while maintaining its own defense with help of 2 internal cannons and the other onboard safety measures.

All of the Panavia Tornado variants were equipped to have 2 seats while the variable wing design allowed for the Panavia Tornado to adjust the wing angle during the flight. These design features allowed for the Panavia Tornado to maintain not only the high speed but also the low-speed performance as well.

Total number of Panavia Tornado ever built:-

After its first successful flight back in 1974 the mass production of the Panavia Tornado started by Italy, Germany, and the UK via Panavia Aircraft Gmbh.  From the years between 1979 to 1998 nearly 992 of the Panavia Tornados were manufactured. This number includes all types of variants ever created for Panavia Tornado.

Powerplant, speed, and range:-

A single unit of Panavia Tornado aircraft is powered by 2 of the Turbo-Union RB 199-34R Mk 103 turbofan engines. Each of these engines is able to create a thrust of nearly 17270 lbs with the afterburner. This much power generation is able to make the aircraft fly at a top speed of nearly 1491 mph for a maximum range of 870 miles. The Panavia Tornado is able to maintain a service altitude of 50000 feet and it has a climbing rate of nearly 15100 feet per minute.

Operational Service:-

To this date, the Panavia Tornado in all its variant has been used in the following conflicts across the world.

  • Gulf War in 1991
  • Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995
  • Kosovo War from 1998 to 1999
  • Operating in the “Operation Enduring Freedom) since 2001
  • Operating in the “Operation Iraqi Freedom” since 2003
  • Libyan Civil War in 2011 along with limited action in Yemen

Base armament:-

The program of the Panavia Tornado IDS variant which was taken up by the RAF under the designation GR.1 saw many upgrades over its service life and the current most advanced strike version of it is designated as GR.4.

The standard armaments for this variant of Panavia Tornado consist of the following weapons.

  • 2 of the 27 mm Mauser BK-27 internal cannons which are placed along the fuselage section sides.
  • In addition to this, the aircraft also has 11 had points that can house stuff like fuel tanks, bombs, missiles and mission pods.

The maximum ordinance load-carrying capacity of the Panavia Tornado is about 19840 lbs to drop the ordnance such as the air-to-air and the air-to-air surface missiles, cruise missiles and precision-guided missiles.

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