|The first MRCA (Multi-Role Combat Aircraft)
had its maiden flight in 1974. Nine prototypes were built, four
British, three German and two Italian. As part of the
continuing development of the aircraft, a further six pre-production
aircraft were built. The first Tornado GR.1's to enter operational
service were with No.9
Squadron based at RAF Honington on the 1st June 1982.|
The Tornado GR.1A was the reconnaissance variant, it was designed to undertake all weather, day or night tactical reconnaissance missions. Equipped with the Tornado Infra-Red Reconnaissance System (TIRRS), this system provided a display of computer enhanced imagery which was formed from the emission by ground based objects of radiation at wave lengths in the infra-red spectrum.
The TIRRS system gave a full horizon to horizon coverage when operating at high speeds and low altitudes over a wide velocity and height. Real-time static or rolling map in-flight displays were provided on the Navigator's left television/tabular display (TV/TAB). The TIRRS was fitted within the aircraft fuselage, so the two 27mm cannons were removed, however; this did not affect the carriage of external stores. The first squadron to fully receive the GR.1A was No. 13 Squadron and which was formed with the Tornado on the 10 January 1990. The RAF ordered 30 GR.1As, of these 14 were conversions of GR.1 aircraft and the remaining 14 were new airframes.
There were three TIRRS sensors mounted in the
aircraft, first being the vertical sensor, designated as the
Infra-Red Line Scan (IRLS), it was mounted under the fuselage and
was protected by a mechanical shutter when no in use. The IRLS
aperture provided a field of view (FOV) of 190° however, in
fact, the true FOV of the IRLS was 180° horizon to horizon, the
angular difference allowed for the blank angle change of up to
5° without imagery obstruction caused by the aircraft's
under-wing surface coming into the sensor FOV when the aircraft
The remaining two sensors, designated Sideways-Looking Infra-Red (SLIR) sensors, these were mounted one each side of the fuselage (LHSLIR and RHSLIR) and view the scene through IR windows located forward of the engine intakes. The FOV of each SLIR was from the horizon to 10° below and 5.5° forward along the aircraft' heading.
The aircraft navigator had the facility to select different sectors of the overall FOV by selecting the appropriate sensor. All the sensors were rolled stabilised, the roll stabilisation was maintained to an aircraft bank angle of 30° for the IRLS. The limit of roll stabilisation for both SLIR was 30° right bank and 15° left bank. The selected sensor could also be locked to the aircraft's axes.
The GR.1A used 6 VCRs grouped in three pairs to record the data. Each pair records video information from its corresponding sensor, with one VCR of each pair designated as the Prime VCR and the other was the navigator's (NAV) VCR. The Prime VCR recorded sensor data generated during the sortie and was used for ground replay and intelligence interpretation. The NAV VCR recorded sensor data for in-flight replay allowing preparation of the editorial tape and provided a reversion capability in the event of a failure of the Prime VCR. Data recorded on any of the NAV VCR's could be replayed on the NAVs TV/TAB screen in the cockpit whilst still recording on to all three of the Prime VCRs. Of note is that the Tornado GR.1A was the first RAF reconnaissance aircraft to enter service with no optical cameras, totally relying on electric data collection.
Tornado GR.1A Equipment - Click to Enlarge
Field of View of the TIRRS System- Tornado GR.1A - Click to Enlarge
In 1984 the Ministry of Defence started looking at the Mid Life
upgrade to the RAF Tornado fleet, this would give the aircraft a great
capability in the medium level role but maintaining its low-level
attack role. The GR.4 upgrade was approved in 1994 with work
starting in 1996 to upgrade 142 GR.1s to GR.4 standards.
Only 25 GR.1As were upgraded to become GR.4As, however, they still maintained the internal TIRRS equipment and they could also carry out the offensive role of the standard GR.4 Tornado.
The GR.4A TIRRS was optimised to undertake low-level missions and the lessons learnt from the first Gulf War in 1991 showed there was a requirement to obtain reconnaissance imagery from medium to high level. So like the Jaguar, the Tornado was fitted with the Vicon 18 601(1) "Wet-Film" camera pod. It was also during this period that funding for the TIRRS was phased out. The Tornado's continued using the 601 pod until 2002 when RAPTOR became the RAF's main photographic reconnaissance system
|RAPOR or to give its full tile
TORnado is manufactured
by BF Goodrich Aerospace and is equipped to give stand-off electro-optical and
infrared (IR), long-range oblique-photographic reconnaissance
imagery. The stand-off range of the sensors
allows the aircraft to remain outside defended areas, thus minimising the aircraft’s
contact with enemy air-defence systems.|
The pod contains a DB-110 visible and IR sensor, which has the capability of detecting and identifying targets from either short or long range and either at medium or high altitudes and of course, by day or by night.
The optical images are supported by IR imagery that can reveal differences in the shape, composition or content of objects from their thermal signatures. Using IR during the daytime also gave excellent haze-penetration in poor weather. The aircrafts' second crewman controls the RAPTOR system via a real-time cockpit video display, thus enabling them to verify targets. The RAF is the first air force in the world to use a reconnaissance pod with these capabilities.
No. II (AC) and 13 Squadrons' are the RAF's 2 specialist Tornado reconnaissance units, but with the RAPTOR pod being able to be fitted onto any GR4 Tornado, this gave other RAF Tornado squadrons a reconnaissance capability. Procuring a total of eight pods along with two ground stations, RAPTOR achieved its operational debut during Operation Telic, the UK contribution to the 2003 Iraq War and continues to be used in operational theatres world-wide.
RAPTOR fitted to RAF Tornado GR.4