Warplanes: January 5, 2004


One of the lesser known victims of the Cold War's end was the European designed and built Tornado fighter-bomber. Built specifically to deal with a possible  war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, it arrived on the scene at the end of the Cold War. At that point, most Warsaw Pact nations were suddenly clamoring to join NATO, and the mighty Red Army of Russia was disintegrating rapidly. European nations were left with hundreds of Tornadoes that that no longer had much to do. Britain used them during the 1991 Gulf War, over Iraq through the 1990s, in the Balkans and in the 2003 Iraq war with good results, despite a rocky start because of poor tactics. But most nations have seen their Tornadoes sit idle. The Tornado is a 1970s design that didn't enter service until the mid 1980s. A 21 ton (max take off weight) aircraft with two engines and swing wings, many have been equipped with all weather electronics and fire control systems that can handle laser guided bombs. But only 995 were produced, and Britain was the only country to really keep them up to date. In the next decade, most Tornadoes will be replaced by the new Eurofighter and American F-35. Because of when it appeared, at the end of the Cold War, the Tornado will never get the credit it deserves. While a major reason for building Tornado was to keep the European warplane market viable. This it did, but because of post-Cold War defense cut backs, Tornado was never able to keep up with upgraded American aircraft. As a result, Tornado always came up short in comparison to U.S. warplanes carrying more recent (and expensive) electronics and weapons. 


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