Further upgrades for the strike aircraft including tactical datalinks are in the pipeline

The UK Royal Air Force is set to clear for service this year a new reconnaissance pod and weapons for its upgraded Panavia Tornado GR4s. Meanwhile, a wishlist of further enhancements for the strike aircraft is emerging.

BAE Systems has completed 107 of the 142 Tornado GR1s to be upgraded to GR4 standard, with the last aircraft due for delivery next year. The upgrade - which has suffered a series of delays - includes new systems and avionics.

By the end of 2002, the RAF plans to have the MBDA Brimstone anti-armour missile and Storm Shadow stand-off weapon cleared for service, says BAE Tornado GR4 programme director Mark Greenhalgh. The Improved Precision Guided Bomb (IPGB) - the GPS-satellite navigation and laser-guided Raytheon Paveway II/III - has already been cleared.


Storm Shadow carriage trials are complete and the first live firing is due in March, says Greenhalgh. An initial release to service in December - allowing carriage of the weapon on under fuselage pylons - will be followed by a full service release 12 months later. Brimstone live firing trials started in 2001, with more due later this year. The GR4 can carry 18 of the weapons.

Gp Capt Greg Bagwell, group captain offensive operations 1 Group, says the RAF plans to deploy the Goodrich Raptor electro-optical reconnaissance pod and the IGB from April.

Last year, BAE received a contract for an upgraded main computer (UMC),which Greenhalgh says will be fitted to the fleet by September 2005. The UMC will be a PowerPC processor with expansion capability. A change to Ada software will improve long-term supportability, he says. Other changes in the pipeline include replacing the rear cockpit cathode ray tube screens with liquid crystal displays.

Other plans include integration of the upgraded MBDA Alarm anti-radiation missile, Successor IFF identification system, the RAIDS air combat training instrumentation system and a covert radar altimeter that is due to enter service in December. Tactical datalinks and a collision warning system are also on the wishlist.

Bagwell says: "We want tactical datalinks, whether it be the improved data modem, Link 16 or something else." Such an upgrade would give the GR4 an improved "sensor-to-shooter" capability. Other requirements include an electronic warfare upgrade, more processing power, and a structural life extension. The oldest Tornados have already flown more than the planned 4,000h which will need to be extended to 8,000-10,000h to meet the 2018-20 out of service date.

n BAE Customer Solutions & Support has won a 10-year contract worth over £35 million ($50.5 million) to improve the supply and availability of Tornado rudders, air intakes, windscreens and wing nib assemblies to the RAF.

Source: Flight International