The Tornado F3 is the RAF’s Counter Air Operations Fighter. Originally a development from the Tornado GR1, the F3 was introduced as a long-range interceptor aircraft for defence of UK airspace. Changes in operational tasks, along with the experience gained during the Gulf War in 1991, led to a major Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP) of the aircraft.
The Tornado F3 is capable of carrying four Skyflash semi-active missiles and four AIM-9L Sidewinder passive Infrared air-to-air missiles. After CSP modification, the aircraft is further capable of replacing Skyflash with Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and Sidewinder with Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAM). The aircraft can also carry the Alarm missile and has a 27mm Mauser cannon on the starboard side of the airframe with a 180 round capacity. Either 1500 litre or 2250 litre external fuel tanks can be carried which, along with air refuelling, increases the aircraft’s endurance.
The Tornado F3 uses the BAE Systems Foxhunter multi-mode, track-while-scan, pulse doppler air-interceptradar to detect and target hostile aircraft. It can engage multiple targets simultaneously, and has an Integrated IFF and ground-mapping mode. The front cockpit has a hands on throttle and-stick capability, together with a head-up display and an electronic head-down and threat-warning display. In the rear cockpit the weapons systems officer has two multi-function display screens
with a threat-warning display and a radar control panel. All aspects of both cockpits can be operated using nightvision goggles. The situational awareness of the aircrew is enhanced by a Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS), which complements the command and control communications offered by one U/VHF radio, one Havequick radio, an HF system and a suite of IFF
transponders and interrogators.
JTIDS allows the Tornado F3 to interconnect with numerous sources and users of information; the UHF line-of-sight communications system can be supplemented by relay platforms and, in some cases, satellite communications. For defensive purposes, the aircraft’s radar homing and warning receiver enhances threat detection and the F3 is equipped with chaff dispensers and infrared decoy flares.
There are four operational F3 squadrons and the Operational Conversion Unit. No 11(F) and No 25(F)
Squadrons are based at RAF Leeming, while No 43(F) and No 111(F) Squadrons are based at RAF Leuchars, together with No 56(R) Squadron, which is the F3 Operational Conversion Unit. The Tornado F3 Operational Evaluation Unit (OEU) is currently hosted at RAF Waddington, but the OEU will return to RAF Coningsby in 2004. Four F3 aircraft are based in the Falkland Islands, where they form No 1435 Flight.
Tornado F3 Fighter
The Tornado F3 fighter 5 Squadron, RAF Coningsby UK, have opened their doors for an unprecedented guided tour of a fully operational Tornado Squadron. O.C. 5 Squadron introduces the Squadron Operating Facility and its NBC warfare provisions; A Tornado pilot walks you around his jet and shows you inside the cockpit, while his navigator explains the Jets complex computer navigation system. A years worth of training missions are compiled into this tape including action from Cope Thunder, Operation Nomad, Exercise Brilliant Foil and Linked Seas, and 5 Sqn's air-to-air and air-to-ground strafing mission. Plus missile firings including inverted Sky Flash launches.