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Panavia Tornado GR 4 /4A

4 Aug
2012

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Superficially similar to the RAF’s initial Tornado GR. Mk 1/1A, the GR. Mk 4/4A is a far more capable asset, possessing new weapons and avionics which will keep it at the front-line until at least 2018.

The Tornado GR. Mk 1 first entered RAF service in 1982 and proved a considerable success in both keeping the peace and going to war, contributing to campaigns over the Balkans and in Iraq during the 1990s. However, the RAF became painfully aware that, in order to fight in the 21st century battlespace, its Tornado IDS fleet needed a serious upgrade; advanced weapons would have to be introduced to counter the developments in air defences that now posed a threat to the Tornado’s original low-level operational profile. Therefore an upgrade programme to convert 142 aircraft to the new GR. Mk 4 standard was initiated by BAe in 1994 as the RAF Tornado Mid-Life Update. The first of these aircraft reentered service in 1998 and the GR. Mk 4 received its operational clearance in April 2001. The final Tornado GR. Mk 4 was redelivered in June 2003 and these upgraded aircraft are planned to remain in RAF service until 2018.
Externally there is little to differentiate between the GR. Mk 1 and Mk 4, except for an additional fairing under the nose of the GR. Mk 4 to house a forward looking infrared (FLIR) and the less obvious deletion of one of the two 27-mm IWKA-Mauser cannon. However, the principal goal of the programme was to provide a common equipment fit across the entire ‘mud-mover’ Tornado fleet and eliminate the costly situation of having ‘fleets within fleets’ (where certain GR. Mk 1 squadrons had specialised in SEAD and others with  Among the GR. Mk 4 modifications, the most significant new items are the integration as standard of the Thermal Imaging Airborne Laser-Designator (TIALD) pod, enabling the aircraft to laser-designate targets for itself or other aircraft; the aforementioned undernose FLIR, which
improves nocturnal navigation and target acquisition capabilities; a laser inertial navigation system (UNS); a ground proximity warning system (GPWS) and a wide-angle head-up display (HUD). A digital avionics bus links the new systems and fully integrates the aircraft’s improved defensive-aids suite.

TIAI. D, for example). Similarly, the RAF’s reconnaissance-configured Tornado GR. Mk lAs were converted to the new GR. Mk 4A standard, these aircraft receiving the same equipment fit as the GR. Mk 4 while retaining the sideways looking infra-red (SITR) sensors and Vinten 4000 infra-red line scanner (IRLS) systems which took up the space of both cannon in the GR. Mk 1A. This new fit releases the recce Tornados from a pure reconnaissance role, allowing them to be added to the general fleet as necessary.

The weapons bus is configured to control the release of a wide range of stores and can be adapted for future weapons types via the system’s weapons-programming and missile-control units. The upgraded navigation systems include a global positioning system (GPS), a BAE Systems Terprom (terrain profile matching) digital terrain-mapping system and the Honeywell 11-764G TINS, these being integrated into the aircraft’s main avionics system. The whole fleet also now has the ability to carry the Vicon wet-film reconnaissance pod, in addition to a video-recording system facilitating debrief of sorties, a night vision goggle (NVG) compatible cockpit, Have Quick secure radios, a new colour moving-map display that allows the pilot to overlay the chosen route, and a Mil Std 1553B/1760A databus permitting the use of current and future internal systems and weapons. The pilot’s control column has been modified to include a hands on throttle and stick (HOTAS) capability, allowing a host of functions to be selected from the stick, including those of the terrain following radar (TFR), autopilot, FLIR and radios, plus chaff and flare release and weapons delivery. The thermal imagery from the TIALD system is also projected onto the pilot’s head-up and head-down displays. A higher-powered computer also needed to be fitted, since the existing system was increasingly struggling to cope with the new equipment being added. In the rear cockpit, joysticks were added inside the canopy rails to allow the back-seater to take responsibility for firing off flares or chaff during high-g manoeuvres.
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Above: Another RAF Tornado unit celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2005 was No. 13 Sqn, this specially painted GR. Mk 4A revealing the absence of cannon on the reconnaissance version, as well as the gold-coloured window covering the fuselage-side infra-red sensor.

Left and below: No. XV (Reserve) Sqn’s display ship is put through its paces at altitude. Based at Lossiemouth, No. XV Sqn serves as the OCU for the GR. Mk 4/4A community and as such is the RAF’s largest fast-jet operator, with some 26 aircraft on strength, (all RAF)

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As well as new internal systems, the Tornado GR. Mk 4 has been made more lethal through the adoption of additional and more potent weapons. The 2,000-lb (907-kg) Raytheon Enhanced Paveway III laser-guided bomb is now in use, with its combined GPS/INS guidance also being compatible with the 1,000-lb (454-kg) warhead. These guidance modifications were the result of problems encountered by the RAF over Kosovo, where targets obscured by cloud could not be success- fully designated using TIAI. D alone. The MBDA Storm Shadow stand-off missile was another new weapon that, like TIAI. D in Operation Desert Storm, was released for action while still under development. Brand new is the MBDA Brimstone anti-armour weapon, a development of the US Army’s ACM-114F Hellfire. If required, a single Tornado GR. Mk 4 can carry 18 of these ‘tank-buster’ weapons. Another specialist item of equipment now in full RAF service is the BF Goodrich Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado (RAPTOR), which uses a datalink to relay information and digital imagery to the ground, obviating the need to process film and resulting in reduced time between target acquisition and target approval. By virtue of its stand-off capability, RAPTOR also significantly reduces the threat posed to the aircraft, allowing missions to be flown at a safer distance from the area of interest.

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When Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched in early 2003, 32 RAF Tornado GR. Mk 4/4As went into battle under the auspices of the British Operation Telic. It soon became clear that the GR. Mk 4/4A was a much more capable aircraft than the GR. Mk 1/1A used in the previous Gulf war, and integrated well within the Coalition force. The Telic GR. Mk 4s typically carried the TIALD pod on an

Right: A pair of ‘Tonkas’ from No. 31 Sqn displays the Brimstone anti-armour missile introduced on the GR. Mk 4 variant and supplemented in this instance by ALARMs.

Below: Developed as a low-cost attack option for use in Iraq, the ‘concrete LGB’ mates an inert 1,000-lb bomb casing with the Paveway II guidance kit. (both RAF) underfuselage ‘shoulder’ station, together with Paveway II or III laser-guided bombs. Additional weapons in the Telic Tornado’s armoury were the AIARM anti-radiation missile, which had made its combat debut in Operation Desert Storm, and the Storm

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Shadow. A few modifications were made to the Tornado fleet for Iraqi operations, notably in the cockpit, which received sun shades for the TV tabs, as well as the previously-noted joysticks attached to the canopy framing.

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Above: Joysticks in the rear cockpit allow the Tornado WSO to launch flares while the pilot conducts evasive manoeuvres.

Above right and right: The front and rear cockpits of the RAF Tornado GR. Mk 4. The former now includes a HOTAS capability and a new colour head-down display.

Below right: GR. Mk 4/4A can use the BOL chaff/flare launcher/AIM-9 rail.

Below: This machine carries Paveway II LGBs, but Paveway III and Enhanced Paveway are also available, (all RAF)

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A few Tornados were also fitted with SaabTech BOL countermea-sures dispensers in their AAM launch rails. The GR. Mk 4A variant provided tactical reconnaissance using the existing Tornado Infra-Red Reconnaissance System (TIRRS) and the new RAPTOR pod, while retaining the full attack options of the GR. Mk 4. The Desert Sand colour scheme used in 1991 was not revisited; an overall light-grey Alkaline Removable Temporary Finish (ARTF), with a darker grey radome was used, the scheme being similar to that first worn by ZA559/AD during Operation Resinate South. The Desert Sand scheme had been devised for the ultra low-level runway denial role allocated to the Tornado GR. Mk 1 during Desert Storm. The light-grey scheme was deemed more appropriate for the medium – and high-altitude precision-bombing roles now undertaken. When Telic began, Tornado GR. Mk 4/4As and Harrier GR. Mk 7s bore the brunt of the RAF’s attack and close air support roles. In the previous Gulf War of 1991 the RAF had surprised many observers by deploying brand-new items of equipment which were not actually in operational service with the peacetime forces, namely the TIALD pod and the ALARM missile. 

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Above: A brace of Storm Shadows is loaded on this Telic GR. Mk 4, which displays the ARTF scheme of overall Camouflage Grey with a Dark Camouflage Grey radome.

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Left: Arrival of the GR. Mk 4 has increased fleet-wide standardisation, meaning that ALARM is not necessarily the preserve of specialist ‘pathfinder’ units, like No. IX Sqn.

Below left: Despite being optimised for the reconnaissance role, the GR. Mk 4A, such as this No. II (AC) Sqn example, retains the attack capabilities of the GR. Mk 4. (all RAF)

Both items were rushed into service and proved highly suc-cessfiil. During Operation Telic the RAF again pulled a bolt from the blue by utilising the new Storm Shadow stand-off cruise missile against targets in Iraq. On the night of 21 March 2003, while working alongside the USAF and US Navy, the RAF was heavily involved in wide-scale attacks against key targets, including Baghdad; one of these RAF raids featured the first operational use of Storm Shadow. Conventionally armed, this weapon has a range of 250 km (155 miles) and flies at just under the speed of sound. The introduction of Storm Shadow and the GPS/INS-guided Enhanced Paveway II/III gave the Tornado fresh attack options following the move away from the high-risk, low-level JP233 raids carried out on Iraqi targets in 1991. On the first night of the war, the initial wave of RAF aircraft involved comprised Tornado GR. Mk 4s from No. IX Squadron outfitted with ALARM missiles. These were followed by a second wave of Tornados carrying Storm Shadows. The crews and aircraft chosen for the initial Storm Shadow missions came from the Lossiemouth-based No. 617 Squadron, the famous ‘Dambusters.
In addition to the sophisticated Storm Shadow and Enhanced Paveway, later in the war consideration was given to using weapons at the opposite end of the technological spectrum. Far removed from the £750,000 Storm Shadow rounds was one of the more unusual types of precision-guided munition so far recorded. This inert weapon was basically a laser-guided 1,000-lb block of concrete, shaped as a bomb and painted blue to identify it as non-explosive. However, the ‘bomb’ was 
still capable of destroying a tank or artillery piece, without causing a devastating explosion that could put civilians at risk and damage surrounding buildings.

Above right: ZA553/DI DISHY INTEL, a Tornado GR. Mk 4 from No. 31 Sqn, reflects the adoption of aircraft tailcode initials as the basis for Telic nose art. (both RAF)

On 6 May 2003 Nos IX and 13 Squadrons returned to RAF Marham, following Nos II (AC) and 31 Squadrons, which had arrived home the previous week. In all, the RAF was responsible for 10 per cent of coalition sorties flown during Operation Iraqi Freedom, averaging between 120 and 140 sorties each day. In contrast to Operation Desert Storm, the advent of GPS-guided munitions meant that adverse weather was no longer an issue in terms of mission rates.

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As in the 1991 Gulf War, artwork was applied to many of the combat aircraft involved in Operation Telic. As numerically the most important aircraft within the RAF contingent, the Tornado GR. Mk 4/4A fleet also received the most artwork. Many observers may have bemoaned the lack of the traditional feminine subjects this time around.

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Above: With No. 617 Sqn responsible for giving Storm Shadow its combat debut, it was little surprise that the new weapon appeared in the unit’s nose art, in this case on GR. Mk 4 ZA614/AJJ Its Show Time.

Indeed, every attempt was made to mimic the tailcode of the aircraft with the theme or initials of the artwork, and female figures were either avoided, or otherwise carefully clothed – in case the aircraft had to divert to Saudi Arabia, local sensitivities were to be respected. Cartoon characters were a favourite among the budding artists, although a number of No. 617 Squadron machines were simply named after various brands of Scotch whisky.

Ali Al Salem in Kuwait was home for RAF Tornado GR. Mk 4s flying as part of the Ali Al Salem Combat Wing during Operation Telic. Missions were also flown from Al Udeid, Qatar. (RAF)

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4A ZA971/C, No. 2 Sqn 90th anniversary markings
Depicted with a RAPTOR pod on the port stores beam, 495-lmp gal (2250-litre) ‘Hindenburgei drop tanks and Storm Shadow ECM. The canopy rail carries the crew names, unfortunatel indecipherable on the reference pictures used. Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS62! overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.
Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4A ZA400/T Scud-Hunters/Go Get ’em Boys’, No. 2 Sqn, Ali al Salem AB, Kuwait, Operation Telic, spring 2003
ARTF Camouflage Grey BS626 overall with Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 rai

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA458/AZ, No. 9 Sqn, RAF Coningsby, 4 November 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA585/AH, No. 9 Sqn, 90th anniversary scheme, RAF Marham, 5 June 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4A ZA398/S, No. 2 Sqn, RAF Lossiemouth, 27 October 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA453/FH, No. 12 Sqn, RAF Leuchars, 17 November 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA543/FF, No. 12 Sqn 90th anniversary markings, RAF Waddington, 2 July 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4A ZG729/M, No. 13 Sqn, 29 November 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4A ZA401/XIII, No. 13 Sqn 90th anniversary scheme, RAF Leuchars, 17 November 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.
Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA592/BJ, No. 14 Sqn, Florennes, 4 February 2004
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Note Operation Telic artwork still carried. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA554/BF, No. 14 Sqn, Lyons, 27 July 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZG756/BX, No. 14 Sqn 90th anniversary markings, RAF Waddington, 2 July 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA459/F, No.15(R) Sqn 90th anniversary markings, RAF Waddington, 2 July 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Red/white/ blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA459/TM, No. 15(R) Sqn, RAF Waddington, 2 July 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZD746/TH, Southend, 30 May 2004
The ‘TH’ codes are those of No. 15(R) Sqn, the fin and nose markings are those of the SAOEU (now FJWOEU). Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA447/DE, No. 31 Sqn, RAF Lossiemouth, 23 May 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA564, No. 31 Sqn 90th anniversary scheme, RAF Lossiemouth, 23 May 2005
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA462/AJ-P, No. 617 Sqn 60th anniversary scheme, RAF Lossiemouth, 16 July 2004
Standard finish of Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 overall with Dark Sea Grey BS638 uppersurfaces. Tactical red/blue national markings.

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Upper and lower surface finish of Tornado GR. Mk 4A

Panavia Tornado GR. Mk 4 ZA614/AJJ It’s Show Time, No. 617 Sqn, Ali al Salem AB, Kuwait, Operation Telic, spring 2003
ARTF Camouflage Grey BS 626 overall with Dark Camouflage Grey BS629 radome.

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