Panavia Tornado ADV (Air Defense Variant) Air Defense Fighter / Interceptor
The Panavia Tornado ADV is the dedicated Air Interceptor Variant of the successful Tornado fighter-bomber series.
Authored By Dan Alex; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Panavia Tornado ADV (Air Defense Variant) was developed for the Royal Air Force (RAF) to fulfill the role of long-range, maritime interceptor. The ADV was based on the Tornado IDS ground attack variant and was selected as a cost-effective solution to replace the aging inventory of McDonnell Douglas Phantom IIs and English Electric Lightnings. Despite seeing a production run of just 218 aircraft, the Tornado ADV variant formed an important "quick-reaction" force against airspace aggression on the part of the Soviets. The Tornado ADV variant is set to be replaced in British and Saudi service by the ultra-modern, oft-delayed Eurofighter Typhoon. In all, service of the ADV has been limited to the British RAF, the Saudis RAF and Italian AF - the latter no longer making use of the platform. As of March 2011, the RAF has retired their fleet of Panavia Tornado ADV aircraft.
The Panavia Name
The name "Panavia" stems from the multi-national design effort to produce a "Multi-Role Combat Aircraft" (project "MRCA", formerly known as "MRA" - Multi-Role Aircraft). MRA was initiated by Canada, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands and West Germany to replace their stable of aging Lockheed F-104 Starfighters which were beginning to reach the end of their useful lives. Britain joined the program when their other AFVG (Anglo French Variable Geometry) "swing-wing" joint venture with France fizzled. While Canada, Belgium and Netherlands ultimately left the now-named MRCA project, Britain, West Germany and Italy forged ahead to form Panavia Aircraft GmbH, splitting the company stake between the three (for both the airframe and the powerplant production). Components (broken down into the nose/tail - Britain; fuselage - West Germany; and wings - Italy) would be individually completed in their respective nations before final assembly. The engine conglomerate (Turbo-Union) was made up of Rolls-Royce of Britain and MTU of West Germany and Italian firm FIAT. Italy held a minor stake in both the airframe and poweplant groups. Panavia Aircraft GmbH was based in Germany while Turbo Union Ltd was based in the UK. The NATO Multirole Combat Aircraft Development and Production Management Agency (NAMMA) was established to direct and manage Tornado production. Similarly, the model was used for the newer Eurofighter Typhoon program, then known as the European Fighter Aircraft (EFA). NAMMA and EFA were both superseded by the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA). As a result, the multi-national Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH has taken over Panavia's commitment to the Tornados.
The Tornado ADV is Born
Despite the "multi-role" direction of the MRCA program (the end product becoming the Tornado IDS - InterDiction / Strike), there was little value in showcasing the new aircraft as a point air defense platform. Britain's major threat was to be the unescorted, long-range bombers originating from within the Soviet Union. While the agile aircraft offerings of mainland Europe proved suitable for that respective environment, defense of the British Isles brought with it a certain dedicated level of requirements from a point defense fighter design - mainly long ranges over featureless water.
As such, the RAF took it upon themselves to have the Tornado airframe offer up a sort of "double duty" requirement within its ranks. Seizing the opportunity, the RAF moved to develop a cost-effective solution for its aging air defense corps, a solution not requiring wholesale changes of the base IDS variant. The heart of the new system would be the Marconi Avionics pulse-Doppler radar suite tied to the new British Aerospace Dynamics XJ521 Sky Flash medium-range air-to-air missile (a derivative of the American AIM-7 Sparrow). Beyond Visual Range (BVR) engagements would be the call of the day for such a maritime interceptor and the new Tornado ADV (Air Defense Variant) was perceived as the most effective solution in bringing down a fast, high-flying Soviet bomber.
In 1976, the initial Tornado order of 385 total was now to include 165 Tornado ADV variants. The prototype ADV "ZA254" (first of the of the three ultimately constructed) was unveiled on August 9th, 1979 with a first flight taking place on October 27th, 1979, over Warton. This initial flight included the use of several "dummy" Skyflash missiles and was able to top Mach 1.0. Handling was improved over the IDS counterpart thanks in part to the revised lengthened fuselage sporting a new center of gravity. Further tests validated the design and included an in-flight refueling exercise as well as a night-time landing attempt. The second prototype became ZA267 on July 18th, 1980, and was tasked with weapons development for the ADV program. The final prototype became ZA254 on November 18th, 1980, and ultimately ended her developmental tenure as a museum-like showpiece outside of RAF Coningsby.
First Delivery and Operation
Deliveries of the initial F.Mk 2 began in 1984 and comprised just 16 examples. Interestingly, these first airframes were delivered without their all-important Marconi radars. Apparently, the Marconi Foxhunter radar still had much in the way of issues to be ironed out. A forward concrete weight (designated as "Blue Circle") was therefore added in their place to keep the weight of the aircraft balanced per her intended specifications and training could commence. The first ADV squadron formed as No.29 out of RAF Coningsby in May of 1987. Operational status was determined by the end of November of that year. These early F.Mk 2s were eventually set up in storage and stripped of useful parts for future ADVs further down the road.
The Tornado ADV quickly offered an integral part of the UK's air defense web. The ADV would operate in conjunction with NATO forces and ground points as well as in-flight fuel tankers and supply the UK proper with a long-range defense element. The basis of this defense web would become the ADV itself, coupling speed, firepower and tracking/targeting capabilities well-beyond that as was made available from the aircraft in the current RAF inventory. The ADV furthered the legacy of the Tornado family, though of by some as THE most important aircraft development of the Cold War.
Tornado ADV Differences Over the Tornado IDS
The Tornado AVD maintained the same general external appearance of the base Tornado IDS strike models but featured a lengthened and more pointed fuselage with a revised nose assembly to house the longer and pointed Marconi/Ferranti AI.24 "Foxhunter" interception radar. Wing sweep was increased some and the portside internal cannon was removed while an internal fuel tank was added for improved range. A fully-retractable fuel receptacle was fitted to the portside of the aircraft. The out underwing pylons of the base IDS were not utilized in the ADV. The revised wing sweep of the ADV brought about a 45.6 foot wingspan at its 25-degree setting. The 67-degree setting yields a wingspan of 28.2 feet. Later ADVs were given an automatic wing sweep function. As a whole, the Tornado ADV still shared some 80% commonality of parts between her and the Tornado IDS, truly making her the cost-effective solution the RAF was searching for.
You're No Dogfighter
While an interceptor by name, the Tornado ADV was never to be fully remembered for her close-in fighter qualities - this no doubt being the inherent limitation of her original low-level strike fighter origins. As a Cold War-era design, she was a missile-laden platform at heart, designed for overall speed to a target area and delivery of air-to-air missiles against aerial targets at range. This explains her need for only one internal cannon (she was not expected to be much of a close-range dogfighting mount to begin with) and her many available external hardpoints. Where the ADV did shine was in her delivery of speed, response time during take-offs and her BVR engagement capabilities. By modern standards, however, this would seem to no longer fit the perceived air combat bill but - in Cold War thinking - this was appropriately the norm in aircraft design - even across the United States and the Soviet Union. Regardless, the Tornado ADV still maintains a presence within the ranks of her users - predominantly the RAF - and has even recently seen action in the interception of stray Russian Tupolev Tu-160 "Blackjack" bombers near UK airspace.
Tornado ADV Walk-Around
The Tornado ADV looks very much the part of her ground-strike variant. She sports a conical nose assembly, ahead of her cockpit, housing the internal interception radar. The cockpit features room for two seated in tandem (a pilot and his Weapons Systems Officer - WSO) and set under a single piece, rear-hinged clear canopy showcasing some light framing. Intakes are mounted to either side of the fuselage and provide the ADV with a rather "stout" overhead appearance. The intake openings are nearly-square in their design and aspirate their respective powerplants buried deep within the rear of the airframe. The engines exhaust through conventional circular rings at the rear. The empennage is dominated by a single, large-area vertical tail fin dividing the twin engine placement. The base of the fin is straddled by rectangular retractable speed brakes to either side. The all-moving stabilizers extend out from either side of each engine housing. The main swing-wing assemblies are controlled by an inner mechanical (computer-controlled) sweep function. They extend out from the fuselage design by way of "wing gloves", a small static area of wing joining the wing proper to the fuselage commonly found in swing-wing aircraft. The main wings themselves are relatively straight in design, with slight sweep along both the leading and trailing edges. When in the fully-swept position, the Tornado ADV takes on a wholly unique and somewhat menacing, single-minded appearance. The undercarriage is conventional and of the tricycle arrangement. This arrangement includes a pair of single-wheeled main landing gear legs (retracting into the fuselage undersides) and a double-wheeled nose landing gear leg (retracting forwards under the pilots cockpit floor).