UK’s Tornado F3 Air Defense Squadrons Retired Early
Recent reports had indicated that the RAF was set to disband the 2 Tornado F3 Air Defence Variant squadrons in Leuchars, Scotland a year early. That is now confirmed. The original plan had been to stand down 43 Sqn (The Fighting Cocks) and 111 Sqn (Treble Ones) in late 2010, but they will now disband in September 2009 as a budgetary measure.
The Tornado was originally developed as a variable-sweep wing strike fighter optimized for low-level penetration. With 40% of NATO aircraft slated to base in the UK during wartime, and a need to cover NATO’s northern flank in the war’s early days, RAF Strike Command decided that long-legged interceptors were the missing piece…
In order to make the conversion, a Foxhunter air-defense radar was added in the nose, one of the two 27mm Mauser cannons was deleted, the fuselage was lengthened to allow carriage of 4 Skyflash medium range air-air missiles (MRAAMs), an extra internal fuel tank was fitted in the lengthened fuselage, and another tank was placed in the tail fin. There wasn’t much to be done about the RB.199 turbofans, however, which were optimized for low-level performance and tended to under-perform at high altitudes.
Later, the F3’s RB199 Mk104 helped a bit by extending the afterburner section; it was also the first operational fighter engine to fly with the Full Authority Digital Engine Controls (FADEC) that are now standard in modern fighters. The aircraft have undergone a number of additional upgrades since their operational debut in 1984, including new avionics, radar improvements, and the ability to use newer missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-132 ASRAAM.
March 22/11: The RAF stands down its last Tornado F3s, as 111 Sqn. at RAF Leuchars is disbanded. Flight International.
April 16/09: Tornado F3 early retirement announced. The move will reportedly cut the number of fighter jets on standby to protect Britain from 25 to 12, which amounts to about 8 operational jets at current readiness rate. It is possible that 43 Sqn, which is the last surviving front-line fighter squadron formed in Scotland, could eventually re-form with the Eurofighter Typhoon. The first set of Typhoon squadrons are becoming operational at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, but 2 other Typhoon squadrons are scheduled to form in 2011 and 2012. The Scotsman | The Sun | The Telegraph. RAF: Tornado F3.