1:72 Panavia “Tornado F.6”; aircraft “ZF205/CG” of the Royal Air Force 5 Squadron; RAF Cranwell, summer 2018 (Whif/modified Italeri kit)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Tornado ADV had its origins in an RAF Air Staff Requirement 395 (or ASR.395), which called for a long-range interceptor to replace the Lightning F6 and Phantom FGR2. The requirement for a modern interceptor was driven by the threat posed by the large Soviet long-range bomber fleet, in particular the supersonic Tupolev Tu-22M. From the beginning of the Tornado IDS's development in 1968, the possibility of a variant dedicated to air defence had been quietly considered; several American aircraft had been evaluated, but found to be unsuitable. However, the concept proved unattractive to the other European partners on the Tornado project, thus the UK elected to proceed in its development alone. On 4 March 1976, the development of the Tornado ADV was formally approved.
In 1976, British Aerospace was contracted to provide three prototype aircraft. The first prototype was rolled out at Warton on 9 August 1979, before making its maiden flight on 27 October 1979. During the flight testing, the ADV demonstrated noticeably superior supersonic acceleration to the IDS, even while carrying a full weapons loadout.
The Tornado ADV's differences compared to the IDS include a greater sweep angle on the wing gloves, and the deletion of their kruger flaps, deletion of the port cannon, a longer radome for the Foxhunter radar, slightly longer airbrakes and a fuselage stretch of 1.36 m to allow the carriage of four Skyflash semi-active radar homing missiles. The stretch was applied to the Tornado front fuselage being built by the UK, with a plug being added immediately behind the cockpit, which had the unexpected benefit of reducing drag and making space for an additional fuel tank (Tank '0') carrying 200 imperial gallons (909 l; 240 U.S. gal) of fuel. The artificial feel of the flight controls was lighter on the ADV than on the IDS. Various internal avionics, pilot displays, guidance systems and software also differed; including an automatic wing sweep selector not fitted to the strike aircraft.
Production of the Tornado ADV was performed between 1980 and 1993, the last such aircraft being delivered that same year. A total of 165 Tornado ADVs were ordered by Britain, the majority being the Tornado F3. However, the Tornado ADV’s replacement, the aircraft that is known today as the Eurofighter Typhoon, met several delays – primarily of political nature. Even though the first production contract was already signed on 30 January 1998 between Eurofighter GmbH, Eurojet and NETMA for the procurement of a total of 232 for the UK, the development and eventually the delivery of the new aircraft was a protracted affair. It actually took until 9 August 2007, when the UK's Ministry of Defence reported that No. 11 Squadron RAF, which stood up as a Typhoon squadron on 29 March 2007, had received its first two multi-role Typhoons. Until then, the Tornado F.3 had become more and more obsolete, since the type was only suited to a limited kind of missions, and it became obvious that the Tornado ADV would have to be kept in service for several years in order to keep Great Britain’s aerial defence up.
In order to bridge the Typhoon service gap, two update programs had already been launched by the MoD in 2004, which led to the Tornado F.5 and F.6 versions. These were both modified F.3 airframes, catering to different, more specialized roles. The F.5 had a further extended fuselage and modified wings, so that it could operate more effectively in the long range fighter patrol role over the North Sea and the Northern Atlantic. On the other side, the F.6 was tailored to the mainland interceptor role at low and medium altitudes and featured new engines for a better performance in QRA duties. Both fighter variants shared improved avionics and weapons that had already been developed for the Eurofighter Typhoon, or were still under development.
The Tornado F.6’s new engines were a pair of Eurojet EJ200 afterburning turbofans, which offered 30% more dry and 20% more afterburner thrust than the F.3’s original Turbo-Union RB199-34R turbofans. These more modern and fuel-efficient engines allowed prolonged supercruise, and range as well as top speed were improved, too. Furthermore, there was the (theoretical) option to combine the new engine with vectored thrust nozzles, even though this would most probably not take place since the Tornado ADV had never been designed as a true dogfighter, even though it was, for an aircraft of its size, quite an agile aircraft.
However, the integration of the EJ200 into the existing airframe called for major modifications that affected the aircraft’s structure. The tail section had to be modified in order to carry the EJ200’s different afterburner section. Its bigger diameter and longer nozzle precluded the use of the original thrust reverser. This unique feature was retained, though, so that the mechanism had to be modified: the standard deflectors, which used to extend backwards behind the nozzles, now opened inwards into the airflow before the exhaust.
Since the new engines had a considerably higher airflow rate, the air intakes with the respective ducts had to be enlarged and adapted, too. Several layouts were tested, including two dorsal auxiliary air intakes to the original, wedge-shaped orifices, but eventually the whole intake arrangement with horizontal ramps was changed into tall side intakes with vertical splitter plates, reminiscent of the F-4 Phantom. Even though this meant a thorough redesign of the fuselage section under the wing sweep mechanism and a reduction of tank “0”’s volume, the new arrangement improved the aircraft’s aerodynamics further and slightly enlarged the wing area, which resulted in a minor net increase of range.
The F.3’s GEC-Marconi/Ferranti AI.24 Foxhunter radar was retained, but an infrared search and track (IRST) sensor, the Passive Infra-Red Airborne Track Equipment (PIRATE), was mounted in a semispherical housing on the port side of the fuselage in front of the windscreen and linked to the pilot’s helmet-mounted display. By supercooling the sensor, the system was able to detect even small variations in temperature at a long range, and it allowed the detection of both hot exhaust plumes of jet engines and surface heating caused by friction.
PIRATE operated in two IR bands and could be used together with the radar in an air-to-air role, adding visual input to the radar’s readings. Beyond that, PIRATE could also function as an independent infrared search and track system, providing passive target detection and tracking, and the system was also able to provide navigation and landing aid.
In an optional air-to-surface role, PIRATE can also perform target identification and acquisition, up to 200 targets could be simultaneously tracked. Although no definitive ranges had been released, an upper limit of 80 nm has been hinted at; a more typical figure would be 30 to 50 nm.
The Tornado F.3’s Mauser BK-27 revolver cannon was retained and the F.6 was from the start outfitted with the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile, with the outlook to switch as soon as possible to the new, ram jet-driven Meteor AAM with higher speed and range. Meteor had been under development since 1994 and was to be carried by the Eurofighter Typhoon as its primary mid-range weapon. With a range of 100+ km (63 mi, 60 km no-escape zone) and a top speed of more than Mach 4, Meteor, with its throttleable ducted rocket engine, offered a considerably improvement above AMRAAM. However, it took until 2016 that Meteor became fully operational and was rolled out to operational RAF fighter units.
A total of 36 Tornado F.3 airframes with relatively low flying hours were brought to F.6 standard in the course of 2006-8 and gradually replaced older F.3s in RAF fighter units until 2009. The Tornado F.3 itself was retired in March 2011 when No. 111 Squadron RAF, located at RAF Leuchars, was disbanded. Both the F.5 and F.6 will at least keep on serving until the Eurofighter Typhoon is in full service, probably until 2020.
Length: 18.68 m (61 ft 3½ in)
Wingspan: 13.91 m (45 ft 7½ in) at 25° wing position
8.60 m (28 ft 2½ in) at 67° wing position
Height: 5.95 m (19 ft 6½ in)
Wing area: 27.55 m² (295.5 sq ft)
Empty weight: 14,750 kg (32,490 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 28,450 kg (62,655 lb)
2× Eurojet EJ200 afterburning turbofans with 60 kN (13,500 lbf) dry thrust and
90 kN (20,230 lbf) thrust with afterburner each
Maximum speed: Mach 2.3 (2,500 km/h, 1,550 mph) at 9,000 m (30,000 ft)
921 mph (800 knots, 1,482 km/h) indicated airspeed limit near sea level
Combat radius: more than 1,990 km (1.100 nmi, 1,236 mi) subsonic,
more than 556 km (300 nmi, 345 mi) supersonic
Ferry range: 4,265 km (2,300 nmi, 2,650 mi) with four external tanks
Endurance: 2 hr combat air patrol at 560-740 km (300-400 nmi, 345-460 mi) from base
Service ceiling: 15,240 m (50,000 ft)
1× 27 mm (1.063 in) Mauser BK-27 revolver cannon with 180 RPG under starboard fuselage side
A total of 10 hardpoints (4× semi-recessed under-fuselage, 2× under-fuselage, 4× swivelling
under-wing) holding up to 9000 kg (19,800 lb) of payload; the two inner wing pylons have shoulder
launch rails for 2× Short-Range AAM (SRAAM) each (AIM-9 Sidewinder or AIM-132 ASRAAM)
4× MBDO Meteor or AIM-120 AMRAAM, mounted under the fuselage
The kit and its assembly:
The eight entry for the RAF Centenary Group Build at whatifmodelers.com, and after 100 years of RAF what-if models we have now arrived at the present. This modified Tornado ADV was spawned through the discussions surrounding another modeler’s build of a modified F.3 (and examples of other Tornado conversions, e. g. with fixed wings or twin fins), and I spontaneously wondered what a change of the air intakes would do to the aircraft’s overall impression? Most conversions I have seen so far retain this original detail. An idea was born, and a pair of leftover Academy MiG-23 air intakes, complete with splitter plates, were the suitable conversion basis.
The basic kit is the Italeri Tornado ADV, even though in a later Revell re-boxing. It’s IMHO the kit with the best price-performance ration, and it goes together well. The kit was mostly built OOB, with some cosmetic additions. The biggest changes came through the integration of the completely different air intakes. These were finished at first and, using them as templates, openings were cut into the lower fuselage flanks in front of the landing gear well. Since the MiG-23 intakes have a relatively short upper side, styrene sheet fillers had to be added and blended with the rest of the fuselage via PSR. The gap between the wing root gloves and the intakes had to be bridged, too, with 2C putty. Messier affair than it sounds, but it went well.
In order to make the engine change plausible I modified the Tornado exhaust and added a pair of orifices from an F-18 – they look very similar to those on the Eurofighter Typhoon, and their diameter is perfect for this change. This and the different air intakes stretch the Tonka visually, it looks IMHO even more slender than the F.3.
Another issue was the canopy: the 2nd hand kit came without clear parts, but I was lucky to still have a Tornado F.3 canopy in the spares box – but only the windscreen from a Tornado IDS, which does not fit well onto the ADV variant. A 2mm gap at the front end had to be bridged, and the angles on the side as well as the internal space to the HUD does not match too well. But, somehow, I got it into place, even though it looks a bit shaggy.
The IRST in front of the windscreen is a piece of clear styrene sprue (instead of an opaque piece, painted glossy black), placed on a black background. The depth effect is very good!
More changes pertained to the ordnance: the complete weaponry was exchanged. The OOB Sidewinders were replaced with specimen from a Hasegawa F-4 Phantom (these look just better than the AIM-9 that come with the kit), and I originally planned to mount four AIM-120 from the same source under the fuselage – until I found a Revell Eurofighter kit in my stash that came with four Meteor AAMs, a suitable and more modern as well as British alternative!
All in all, just subtle modifications.
Painting and markings:
Well, the RAF was the creative direction, so I stuck to a classic/conservative livery. However, I did not want a 100% copy of the typical “real world” RAF Tornado F.3, so I sought inspiration in earlier low-visibility schemes. Esp. the Phantom and the Lightning carried in their late days a wide variety of grey-in-grey schemes, and one of the most interesting of them (IMHO) was carried by XS 933: like some other Lightnings, the upper surfaces were painted in Dark Sea Grey (instead of the standard Medium Sea Grey), a considerably murkier tone, but XS933 had a mid-height waterline. I found that scheme to be quite plausible for an aircraft that would mostly operate above open water and in heavier weather, so I adapted it to the Tonka. The fact that XS 933 was operated by RAF 5 Squadron, the same unit as my build depicts with its markings, is just a weird coincidence!
An alternative would have been the same colors, but with a low waterline (e.g. like Lightning XR728) – but I rejected this, because the result would have looked IMHO much too similar to the late Tornado GR.4 fighter bombers, or like a Royal Navy aircraft.
Since the upper color would be wrapped around the wings’ leading edges, I used the lower wing leading edge level as reference for the high waterline on the forward fuselage, Behind the wings’ trailing edge I lowered the waterline down to the stabilizers’ level.
All upper surfaces, including the tall fin, were painted with Tamiya XF-54, a relatively light interpretation of RAF Dark Sea Grey (because I did not want a harsh contrast with the lower colors), while the fuselage undersides and flanks were painted in Medium Sea Grey (Humbrol 165). The same tone was also used for the underwing pylons and the “Hindenburger” drop tanks. The undersides of the wings and the stabilizers were painted in Camouflage Grey (formerly known as Barley Grey, Humbrol 167).
Disaster struck when I applied the Tamiya paint, though. I am not certain why (age of the paint, I guess), but the finish developed a kind of “pigment pelt” which turned out to be VERY sensitive to touch. Even the slightest handling would leave dark, shiny spots!
My initial attempt was to hide most of this problem under post-shading (with Humbrol 126, FS 36270), but that turned the Tonka visually into a Tiger Meet participant – the whole thing looked as if it wore low-viz stripes! Aaargh!
In a desperate move (since more and more paint piled up on the upper surfaces, and I did not want to strip the kit off of all paint right now) I applied another thin coat of highly diluted XF-54 on top of the tiger stripe mess, and that toned everything done enough to call it a day. While the finish is not perfect and still quite shaggy (even streaky here and there…), it looks O.K., just like a worn and bleached Dark Sea Grey.
A little more rescue came with the decals. The markings are naturally low-viz variants and the RAF 5 Sq. markings come from an Xtradecal BAC Lightning sheet (so they differ from the markings applied to the real world Tornado F.3s of this unit). The zillion of stencils come from the OOB sheet, but the walking area warnings came from a Model Decal Tornado F.3 sheet (OOB, Revell only provides you a bunch of generic, thin white lines, printed on a single carrier film, and tells you “Good luck”! WTF?). Took a whole afternoon to apply them, but I used as many of them as possible in order to hide the paint finish problems… Some things, like the tactical letter code or the red bar under the fuselage roundel, had to be improvised.
With many troubles involved (the paint job, but furthermore the wing pylons as well as one stabilizer broke off during the building and painting process…), I must say that the modified Tonka turned out better than expected while I was still working on it. In the end, I am happy with it – it’s very subtle, I wonder how many people actually notice the change of air intakes and jet exhausts, and the Meteor AAMs are, while not overtly visible, a nice update, too.
The paint scheme looks basically also good (if you overlook the not-so-good finish due to the problems with the Tamiya paint), and the darker tones suit the Tonka well, as well as the fake RAF 5 Squadron markings.