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Tornado GR1 is the ground attack or bomber version of the Tornado. As I live in the North East of Scotland I spend quite a bit of time at RAF Lossiemouth on the Moray Coast. Here there are Three Tornado squadrons at the moment with a fourth arriving in 2001. These are 12 squadron, 15R squadron and 617 squadron "The Dambusters"

The idea behind Tornado first came to light in the mid 1960's when NATO came up with the idea of providing an aircraft capable of carrying precision attacks flying at low altitude to avoid being detected by enemy radar and shot down by anti-aircraft systems.

In 1968 feasibility studies beganencompassing the governments of Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, Canada and the USA. In the end the first three countries continued with the project.

Development was completed in mid 1970 and structural design in August 1972.

The first of nine evaluation prototypes flew on August 14th 1974 and two years later, on July 29th, the governments involved in the aircraft purchase signed the production order for a total of 809 aircraft.

The first aircraft destined for Germany and Great Britain flew on July 27th 1979. The first for Italy flew on September 25th because Italy had delayed production approval.


15R squadron is the largest Tornado squadron, in terms of aircraft numbers, in the RAF. The squadron is where Tornado pilots and rears are trained.



Mission Profiles

Low level strike

Until quite recently Tornado was used by all three parent nations(UK, Germany and Italy) in the nuclear role. Principal targets were WarPac airfields and other heavily defended installations attacking from low level in laydown attacks using parachute retarded low yield weapons with time delay fuses

Precision attack

The main role of Tornado today is to use its superior navigation equipment to mount pinpoint attacks with laser guided weapons. The changing nature of warfare means that many of these missions are flown at medium level above the threat of anti aircraft guns and short range surface to air missiles.

Long range ship attack

Using its powerful radar to spot ships from long distances the Tornado can then attack using long range missiles fired from ultra low level below the ships radar horizon. Both Sea Eagle and Kormoran missiles are sea skimming weapons that are difficult to defend against.

NATO Lookout

Flying the reconnaissance mission is similar to bombing and can be performed from low or high/medium level. RAF GR1A/GR4A's have a built in low level infra red system but all suitably modified aircraft can carry podded camera systems to cater for a variety of tactical circumstances.

Buddy tanker

German and Italian aircraft routinely fly as tankers to refuel other Tornados. The "Sargent Fletcher'buddy' pod" is carried on the centreline of the aircraft

Electronic warfare

With the ECR,ITECR and ALARM carrying RAF aircraft the Tornado is used for defence suppression. This involves destroying the radars that support surface to air missiles allowing other attack aircraft safe passage to their targets.

The highly loaded swing wing of the Tornado provides a rock steady ride at high speed and low altitude where gusts and buffets can make flying in other types of aircraft very uncomfortable. Another key to the Tornado's success is a highly accurate inertial navigation system coupled, in recent years, to GPS(global positioning system). The aircraft uses its attack radar to get highly accurate position updates along the route allowing it to undertake 'blind' strikes with unguided weapons to accuracies measured by a few feet.

With the GR1A the RAF introduced the worlds first filmless tactical reconnaissance system know as TIRRS(Tornado Infra-Red Reconnaissance System). The equipment consists of three infra red 'heat cameras' which record imagery on to a videotape. This allows for instant replay and avoids time consuming task of developing traditional film. The first unit to receive GR1A was No.II (Army Co-operation) Squadron.

The Following pages have Squadron Badges and brief history of the squadrons which was kindly provided by

The RAF Homepage

15R Squadron Lossiemouth
617 Squadron "The Dambusters"
12 Squadron

Click on the thumbnails below for the full picture














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