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July Contest Photo

Panama F. Mk. 3 Tornado


October 1, 2020

Photo courtesy of Tom Lymburn

Panama F. Mk. 3 Tornado

The Panavia consortium, formed in March 1969, was charged with the development of the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) for Britain, Germany, and Italy. From this program came the variable geometry strike and recon aircraft known as the IDS. Britain also required a long-range all-weather interceptor. This version is known as the Air Defense Variant or ADV. The prototype ADV first flew on 27 October 1979 and 18 pre-production F. Mk. 2 Tornados followed. The definitive F. Mk. 3 flew in November 1985. One-hundred forty-four were produced for the RAF and a further 24 were built for Saudi Arabia. Italy leased 24 as temporary replacements for their ancient F-104S Starfighters in 1993.

Capable of 1453 mph and possessing a combat radius of over 1100 miles, the ADV carried one 27 mm Mauser cannon and provision for multiple air-to-air missiles. They replaced Lightnings and Phantoms. RAF Tornado ADV's saw action in the 1991 Gulf War, logging over 2000 combat air patrols. Further sorties were flown during the Balkan wars. From 1992 to 2009, No. 1435 Flight was stationed in the Falklands at RAF Mount Pleasant. Italian ADV's suffered from poor serviceability, rates as low as 50%, and Saudi aircraft were also beset with maintenance problems. The last RAF Tornado ADV's were retired from No. 111 Squadron at RAF Leuchars in March 2011.

I photographed this F. Mk. 3 Tornado, ZE732 of No. 5 Squadron, from Goose Bay, in June 1990 at Hamilton, Ontario. It was on detached NATO duty. During its RAF career, ZE732 was assigned to No. 43 Squadron, No. 56 Operational Conversion Unit, and No. 29 Squadron. While with No. 29 Squadron, it was lost on 15 June 1998 over the North Sea while engaged in a practice interception with two other Tornados and an AWACS. The wreckage and the two crew members were located by sonar carried by a Royal Navy Sea King off Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire. The crew had not able to eject.

I thought this would be an easy one, but only four readers got it. Gary Kuhn, Graydon Carlson, Scott McKinley, and Dave Lundgren recognized the Tornado. Gary wins this month's honors. Thanks to all.

Blue skies, tail winds, and best wishes.


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