Royal Air Force Upgrades Tornado in Shadow of F-35

Royal Air Force Upgrades Tornado in Shadow of F-35

FARNBOROUGH, England – The British Royal Air Force plans to finish technological upgrades of as many as 59 Tornado aircraft by 2016 as part of a modernization plan to keep the plane relevant as the F-35 and Typhoon come on line, officials said at the Farnborough International Airshow.

The upgrades included outfitting the planes with precision weapons, improved information exchange and secure communication technology, said Dave Waddington, Tornado Force Commander, RAF.

Although at least eight upgraded Tornado aircraft have recently served in Afghanistan, the RAF plans to fully phase out the plane by 2019 as more Eurofighter Typhoons and F-35s get built, Waddington said.

“The future for the Royal Air Force is F-35 and Typhoon,” Waddington said.

The Tornado GR4 is an all-weather, two-seat attack aircraft which has been in service for more than 30 years. The 17-meter aircraft can reach speeds of Mach 1.3 and altitudes of 50,000-feet.

In addition, the Tornado can fly automatically when vision is obscured due to poor weather by using a terrain following radar, RAF officials said.

The precision-guided bomb upgrade includes efforts to engineer the plane to fire the Paveway IV, a Raytheon-built GPS and laser guided bomb.

“The precision guided bomb capability was absolutely key to Tornado. It gives us that ability to strike a target with the precision that is demanded. It is not just about the weapon itself — a key element was the integration,” Waddington explained.

Secure radio communications are also integral to the upgrades in order to allow Tornado crews to safely communicate with one another and allied forces.

“This gives us the ability to share voice with our allies that is secure and anti-jammable,” he added.

A digital data link called Link 16 is also part of the upgrade, as it allows Tornado crews to share combat relevant information such as targeting data. Link 16 is the system most U.S. aircraft also use.

“Secure communication allows air crews to speak in a reliable way with forward air controllers and tactical air controllers on the ground  — which means that as soon as they get there they will be able to deliver the necessary effects without the 10 or 15 minutes that it used to take to make sure that you understood the ground situation,” Waddington explained.

If the ground circumstances are understood more quickly then Tornado crews can more quickly deploy whatever force is required in a safe manner, being careful to avoid friendly fire, Waddington added.

Waddington said that the Tornados would retire by 2019 unless the Ministry of Defence’s upcoming defense review winds up changing plans for the RAF, he said.

The first six Tornado’s finished their upgrades in March of last year.

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I’m sure it’s no coincidence that this is getting noticed shortly after the F-35B failed to appear at the Farnborough International Airshow due to technological malfunctions. No coincidence at all…

Tornado has been the most successful attack aircraft, proven with over 25 years operation in out of area combat theatres. it was still the aircraft of choice in the recent Libya conflict. F35 has a really tough act to follow if it is able to be even half as effective as Tornado.

it seems un-believable that the RAF are even thinking of scrapping such a capable and flexible aircraft as Tornado. the German, Italian and Saudi airforces are not thinking of scrapping their jets, yet the RAF is planning to replace the best all weather attack aircraft, still benefitting from 2 engines and 2 man crew with such a risky and expensive aircraft as F35B.

Tornado is the best aircraft that the USAF never had

“The future for the Royal Air Force is F-35 and Typhoon,” Waddington said. Quite a sense of humor this guy has„ the F35 cant even make it to an airshow let alone do combat ops, trying to build a jet that does everything well means it will be a master of none of its tasks. This maintenance boondoggle will come back to haunt the RAF big time just in technical headaches and costs. RAF, stick with what you have, it works.

That sad if the RAF puts all its hope in the inferor and over priced F-35. Be better for the Brits like we do with the F-15 keep them in service past 2025. They are still better than any current Russian or Chinese plane in the air.

And everything you just said could have applied to the Typhoon just a few years ago.

The F-35 has been under development for over 20 years„ I expect any new system to have issues, the F-14 was a good example. But this is way too long and the problems just keep piling up. This aircraft is a cob job of dissimilar systems, ever changing requirements, and too many contractors with their hands in the pie, the whole program is a disaster. time to move on.

haha i know.

The F35 is going to go the way of the dodo bird simply because the costs associated with it are insurmountable, especially in a age of sequestration and cost cutting.

Dream on.….

LOL The F-35 is vastly more capable than the Tornado any day of the week. As a matter of fact the UK will likely purchase more F-35’s (A) to replace the Tornado’s as funds become available.

First the F-35 is not going anywhere and second nothing to move onto.….…

When did the USAF ever operate the Tornado???

It would be nice if the RAF could keep the Tornado’s in service until more F-35’s could be purchased as its replacement.

Upgrades have been planned for sometime. So, it’s not a coincidence at all.…


The Tornado is vastly more capable than the F-35 in any day of the week.

The F-35 is a terrible idea. It is meant to replace something that doesn’t need to be replaced. The F-35 IS a complete waste of money, due to the amount of setbacks, problems, and other issues compared to how much it will actually benefit this country is ridiculous for the tax payers to keep paying for this. Not only does the F-35 bring that many impressive technologies, but it is an incapable fighter which I believe is inferior to any fighter in our current military.

The fact that the F-35 has stealth capabilities is somewhat attractive, but there is a catch to that. If it was ever to be effective in a combat situation it would loose all of it’s stealth capabilities due to its extremely small stealth payload and the fact the F-35 will be detected by counter stealth radars and L-Band AESA’s.

This jet will not even be a very good aircraft. By all standards, when this thing is finished (if it is ever finished) it will have compromised so much in so many areas to fulfill those roles that it will be good at nothing. Even if it meets the current targets it will be inferior to current 4th gen fighters and will cost about 3x or 4x as much. LM gets to take everything while delivering nothing that they promised. The F-35 is grounded right now and the program is falling apart at the seams because the aircraft sucks so bad.

Congress is bribed by the MIC to keep throwing money at it, but throwing money at the problem is not going to fix it anytime soon. They need to kill one variant in order for this thing to work.

In fact, with the situation the world economy is in, I am finally starting to see a possibility in the future when the F-35 will get canned, despite everything that everyone says about it being here to stay. I know that it will get a few planes out, but I don’t see this thing actually making it to 2020. It’s taking too much away from the economy without providing much in return.

The F-35 has failed to make spec for combat radius. Failed to make spec for transonic acceleration. Failed to make spec for sustained turn rate. Failed to make spec for reliability. Failed to make spec for sortie generation rate. Failed to make spec for STOVL ground roll. Requirements had to be artificially “relaxed” in all these areas to avoid triggering a Nunn-McCurdy program review.

Eventually the F-35 will kill itself if more failings keep occurring.


Why don’t you inform us why the F-35 is a “fifth-generation” fighter? Why do you think the F-35 program will ever succeed? and Why do you think the F-35 is vastly more capable than the Tornado and other aircraft any day of the week?

The Joint Operational Requirement Document (JORD) for the Jinxed Spending Fiasco (JSF), composed in the 1990s and signed off on at the beginning of the last decade assumed there would be hundreds of F-22s to help kill big threats. We all know how that turned out. That and the basic specs of the aircraft? The JSF JORD is obsolete for emerging threats. And given the progress of the program; that includes vs. some of today’s existing threats. Some of us knew this. And now DOD/LockMart (some days one-and-the-same) have to tell the customer that what they are getting is a combination of the Brewster Buffalo and Douglas TBD Devastator. One of many things that has to be done once Block 3 is figured out is to have a complete, end-of-SDD F-35 take on the F-22 and Typhoon in practice fights. Then we will know. The F-22 and Typhoon represent rough emerging red-air threat types (PAK-FA / SU-3x) over the alleged life of the F-35 program. As an aside, the red-air threat countries are not trying to develop aircraft that beat the F-35. They are trying to develop aircraft that can defeat the F-22. Do that and beating the F-35 comes with it. Unfortunate how the LM/DOD pukes and their fan-base kept up with the 6-times better than legacy in air-to-air nonsense when that was never a requirement. Dumb marketing slogans hurt more when the product you are pushing is in significant trouble in almost all weapons procurement phases.

Umm, the F-16 and legacy F/A-18 need to be replaced, as does the AV-8 Harrier. The VHF radars which do somewhat better against low RCS targets are by necessary large setups that can’t be fit into any fighter sized aircraft. The idea that L-band radars in an aircraft will detect the F-35 at any respectable range is unproven too. It was also an engine failure, not the “aircraft falling apart at the seems”. You’re comment is quite simply a whole lot of BS.

The combat radius issue was corrected, the transonic acceleration and sustained turn rate targets proved too ambitious but that doesn’t change the positive comparisons with the F/A-18 the F-35 has gotten, the STOVL takeoff run needed to be extended by a few meters, with more than enough LHD deck to spare if you do the math, reliability and sortie generation are still works in progress as there doesn’t even exist a final number for those figures.

Well maybe the need for excellent flight performance for air-to-air combat means we shouldn’t have cut back the F-22 program, but in no universe is it a smart idea to follow that up by cutting the JSF leaving us with aging ‘70s era designs. And the F-35 is comparable to those designs in terms of agility, it is not a Douglas TBD Devastator.

What you guys focused on dreams of dogfights seem to forget is that there is a lot of things on the ground that need to be blown up too and a lot of things on the ground that can also engage our aircraft. Air-superiority won’t do any good if you don’t have the strike capability to follow it up.

No, it really isn’t. It’s probably a smoother ride at very low levels as that was what it was built for, might be slightly faster at those very low levels too, but besides for that it really doesn’t offer much over the F-35. Definitely nothing worth the tradeoffs in stealth, sensors and so on. And don’t go thinking the Tornado is any more maneuverable, because it isn’t.

The Tornado today has been upgraded to remain relevant and capable but Western air-forces have generally shifted away from low-level attack to operating at higher altitudes.

…if it is even half as effective for twice the price…

I’d rather have A-6 Intruders than Tornados, if I were the USAF.

Mincemeat in Gulf War 1. Mincemeat against modern defenses and current Roosky Killer Flying Machines From Outer Space. Tornado is just plain mincemeat, may as well have flotillas of A-6 Intruders, at least then you know you are a suicide mission.

the list is much longer than that.… wing loading, g loading, survivability, ability to land on a carrier, dump fuel, fly above 10k feet etc etc etc have all been repeatedly had thier specs weakened.

Some of these will be fixed by adding more weight and many will just get worse. The fact is the F-35 is a bad design executed badly.

If they had to have a swing winger they should have bought the F-14 , hell of a lot faster and proved it could drop bombs !!! AKA …Bombcat !!

Never. Which is why he said, “never”.

If carrier launch is a requirement, then the Intruder is your only choice.

“as funds become available”.…_But that is the problem. Less and less funds are available. They are cutting the Tornado’s to save money.__Any other airforce is buying less F35 because of the price. And the UK will be buying more in the end? I’am not buying that.


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