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1/72 RAF Tornado FG.5 

by Nick Walton

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Silly Week 2007

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The death of Prince Harry in 2007 in Afghanistan was a brutal awakening to the British people as to the state of the armed forces. The Prince's platoon were wiped out by Taliban fighters while awaiting air support that was unavailable.

In the aftermath Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's grief turned to fury at her ministers for allowing British forces to operate without adequate support. In a shocking televised address she demanded that HER armed forces be adequately funded and supplied. Massive public support for this sentiment led to a bloodbath in Whitehall as one after another minister resigned in shame.

The good that came from this national tragedy was the total revamping of the British military and the procurement process. Gone, for the moment at least, were the 'Yes Men' concerned only with securing a pension.

By mid 2008 orders had been placed for new support helicopters, additional Apache AH.1s and new infantry equipment. There was also an obvious requirement for additional CAS/attack aircraft. Several options were considered f
or this role, including an outright purchase of Saab Gripens from the Swedish Air Force, SU-25s from Russia, A-10s from the US, and even the reintroduction of the Jaguar.

In the end the requirement was met by a proposal from BAE Systems; Project Phoenix. A number of retired Tornado F.3 aircraft were in storage. Due to the higher altitude nature of their mission, these aircraft had very little airframe fatigue compared to their GR cousins. BAE offered to rewing the F.3s with a straight fixed wing derived from the F-18. This would reduce maximum speed to 1.5, but would also reduce maintenance costs, and provide a highly capable weapons delivery platform, optimized for medium altitude, but still capable of low-level attack.

The other major modification was the conversion to single-pilot operation. While the second cockpit was retained, mission-specialized gear was removed and replaced with a duplicate of the second cockpit. This was a cheaper solution than completely removing the cockpit, and it gave the flexibility to operate with two pilots during long missions and when a second pair of eyes was a valuable asset, such as FAC duties.

BAE, eager to make up for the Nimrod MRA.4 debacle guaranteed a fixed price contract for 48 airframes, including a clause that forced BAE to lease Gripens for the RAF is delivery slipped significantly.

The program proceeded virtually without a hitch, and the first Tornado FG.5 entered frontline service in late 2009. Due to flight-control software changes, very little pilot training was needed for conversion from either F.3 or GR.4 models. The removal of the wing-sweep mechanism allowed for increased internal fuel carriage. Another change to the F.3, was the upgrade to higher thrust RB.199 Mk.105 engines used in the German ECR Tornados.

The FG.5 proved to be a highly capable attack aircraft, and with the new wing was even a respectable dogfighter when up against aircraft of its own generation. Ironically, in the twilight of its career the Tornado was finally a true Multi Role Combat Aircraft.

This is a Tornado FG.5 of 54 Squadron, based at Baghdad International Airport awaiting a strike on Iranian military facilities in the opening week of the campaign to destroy Iran's imminent nuclear strike capability in October 2010. This aircraft carries a common FG.5 load of 2 x 2000lb Paveway III LGBs, 2 x ALARM missiles, 2 x AMRAAM missiles, 2 x ASRAAM missiles, a TILAD laser designator, and 2 x 1500l external tanks.

Other weapons used by FG.5s in Iran included AIM-9M Sidewinders, Paveway II & IV bombs, iron bombs, Maverick missiles, and CRV-7 rocket projectiles. By 2012 integration of the Storm Shadow and Brimstone missiles was complete, though neither weapon saw service with FG.5s in Iran.

Click on images below to see larger images

  

This kitbash is a combination of Hasegawa's Tornado F.3 with the wings of a Hasegawa TF-18.  A lerx cut from styrene sheet was added and the whole thing faired in with Milliput.  The weapons came from Revell's superb Tornado GR.1.

Nick 

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Photos and text by Nick Walton

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