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Nicknamed the Mighty Fin, the Panavia Tornado was originally known as the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) program and was a joint program between the UK, Italy and Germany. Designed as a specialist low level strike aircraft, 990 were eventually produced for the three partner nations and Saudi Arabia. The Tornado was produced in three main variants, the IDS which was the main strike variant, ECR which is an advanced anti-radar variant and the ADV which was an interceptor variant. The latter differed from the IDS and ECR by featuring more powerful engines, a lengthened fuselage to accommodate more fuel and was fitted with the Foxhunter air to air radar. The type became famous for its ultra-low-level exploits during the first Gulf War attacking Iraqi airfields. The RAF retired their last Tornados in 2019.
The German Air Force originally took delivery of 247 Tornados including 35 ECR variants, the remainder being IDS variants. These were further supplemented between 1994 and 2005 as the German Navy either retired or transferred to the Air Force their own fleet of 112 Tornado IDS aircraft. The current German Air Force fleet has been reduced to 90 aircraft by budget cuts but has been constantly upgraded and remains a potent combat aircraft having served in Kosovo and Afghanistan. During 2021 the German government announced that the Tornado's role as a NATO Nuclear Bomber in their military would be replaced by an order for 35 F-35A Lightning IIs.
We are very pleased to announce that a pair of German Air Force Tornados will be appearing in the flying display at this year's Air Tattoo. The pair of aircraft will first perform an aerial refuelling demonstration with an Airbus A400M before then also performing a demonstration of buddy-buddy refuelling, with the Tornado from TLG51 (based at Schleswig Air Base) carrying the refuelling pod. The other jet will be provided by TLG 33 (based at Büchel Air Base). Photo Credit: Chen Peng