Panavia Tornado F3

Panavia Tornado F3
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    Historic Hangars

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The Tornado F.3 is intended for long-duration combat air patrols (CAPs) working in conjunction with Boeing E3D Sentry or other AEW/AWACS aircraft and was originally developed from the Tornado GR.1 bomber variant, via the 18 short-lived Tornado F.2 Air Defence Variant (ADV).

First flown in November 1985, and in training use with No 229 OCU at Coningsby from July 1986, the Tornado F.3 entered Squadron service (No 29 Squadron RAF Coningsby) in April 1987, that squadron being declared NATO operational in November 1987 after the usual 'working up' period to refine tactics etc. The Tornado successively replaced the Lightning and Phantom squadrons in the air defence role. Compared with the Tornado IDS (Interdictor/Strike) variant, the Tornado ADV has 80% commonality; however the ADV has faster supersonic acceleration, and a stretched body, permitting more internal fuel capacity.

Designed to protect UK airspace and able to engage several targets simultaneously, the Tornado F.3 can patrol for over three hours at 300 nautical miles from base. Originally equipping seven squadrons and 1435 Flight in the Falklands and used for CAPS during the first Gulf War, by late 2010, only No. 111(F) Squadron at Leuchars still operated the Tornado F.3 in front-line RAF service pending final replacement by the Eurofighter Typhoon. The Royal Saudi Air Force also operate this variant, and until the end of 2004 some were leased to the Italian Air Force by the RAF.