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News Article

New RAF Tornado contract keeps fast jet flying

An Equipment and Logistics news article

25 Aug 09

The RAF Tornado GR4/4A fleet is to benefit from a £28m Mid-Life Fatigue Programme (MLFP) contract which is aimed at seeing the fleet through to its planned Out-of-Service Date (OSD) in 2025.

A 12 Squadron Tornado GR4 at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan

A 12 Squadron Tornado GR4 at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan
[Picture: SAC Neil Chapman, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

The Tornado GR4 aircraft remains the most capable ground attack platform within the RAF inventory.

Recent investments in state-of-the-art avionics, defensive aids, precision weapons and reconnaissance systems have ensured the aircraft remains a potent and flexible offensive air platform.

Sustainment of this robust capability is vital to the RAF and to its successful involvement in current and future operations.

This Phase 2 programme follows a concept phase that established the best way of dealing with aircraft fatigue issues identified during routine monitoring, and will involve technical demonstrations to assess the best method of delivering them.

Its outcome will inform Phase 3, which will seek approval to roll-out the programme across the fleet, ensuring that the fatigue life of key areas of the aircraft's front and centre fuselage are extended to the OSD.

A 12 Squadron Tornado GR4 takes off from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan

A 12 Squadron Tornado GR4 takes off from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan
[Picture: SAC Neil Chapman, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

The MFLP contract was awarded through the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) to Panavia. The work will be carried out by BAE Systems at its Warton plant in Lancashire, involving some 30 technical staff. Design and development will be carried out at EADS in Manching, Germany.

The Phase 2 programme will see the design and trial installation of structural modifications into one in-service aircraft on a trial basis, taking about three years to complete. At that stage a final decision will be taken on progressing to Phase 3 which, if approved, could see the modifications embodied in 40 aircraft at a cost of about £207m.

The Tornado GR4/4A is a variable-geometry, two-seat all-weather attack aircraft, capable of delivering a wide variety of weapons.

The RAF fleet comprises 138 aircraft, with main operating bases at RAF Marham in Norfolk and RAF Lossiemouth in Moray.

A number of aircraft are currently deployed in support of joint operations in Afghanistan.

Over the past 15 years the GR4 has played an important role in a range of air campaigns, from the first Gulf War to Kosovo and, until recently, Iraq.

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