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Tornado GR.Mk.4

by Piero De Santis


Tornado GR.4


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The Tornado is an attack aircraft designed in partnership between UK, Italy and Germany to be used at low-level for deep-strike.

The Tornado's first generation was marked as "GR.Mk.1" for UK air force and "IDS" for Italy and Germany air forces.

The strike role  was designed and developed for the "Cold War", but with the end of the "Soviet bloc", it change his role to conventional interdiction (GR.1 and IDS), reconnaissance (GR.1A and IDS), suppression of enemy air defences (ECR, GR.1/1A) and anti-naval (GR.1B, IDS) .

An air defence variant (ADV) was realized to respond at the demand of UK, to intercept the heavy long-range bombers.

The only export order was made by the "Saudi Arabia" air force, for "GR.1" and "ADV" variants.

All the Tornado's variants (GR.1/1A, IDS, ECR, ADV) were used over Iraq and over Balkans... and actually the GR.4/4A have been used again over Iraq.



Because the Tornado's history is too long, I dedicated these few words only to the last variant employee today by the Royal Air Force: the Tornado GR.Mk.4.

With the end of the "Cold War" and following the lessons learned during the "First Gulf War", the RAF decided that the Tornado GR.Mk.1/1A fleet has to go under a "Mid-Life Update" program: the main external feature was the addition of a FLIR system integrated with NVGs used by crews to permit a fully night and all-weather operational.

Other weapon systems already integrated only to few aircrafts were extended to all the fleet: those included TIALD pod and ALARM missiles, using an enhanced weapon control system with a new stores management databus.

A new HUD and a Multi-Functional-Display were installed in the front cockpit replacing the old-fashion Moving-Map-Display.

Recently with the advent of the GPS new technology, also this system has been integrated on the GR.Mk.4 together with Enhanced LGBs.

Recce's missions are carried using the internal infrared-line scanner system or using dedicated external pod as Vinten Vicon series or the new RAPTOR pod.

New weapons are the "Storm Shadow" stand-off missile and the "Brimestone" anti-tank missile.


Further Reading

Information related to the Tornados are available on books, magazines, web sites... everywhere.

I can highly recommend books as "Tornado Multi-Role Combat Aircraft" by Jon Lake&Mike Crutch, the "World Air Power Journal" N3, the Verlinden Lock On N12" or the "Aeroguide N24"... but in any case my suggestion is to look into the aircraft magazines as "Combat Aircraft", "Aircraft Illustrated", "Air Forces Monthly", or the "Royal Air Force Yearbook" and on the aircraft's web sites... because are the most updated media to get pictures and others.



Tornado in Plastic


Tornado variants are well represented in all the three main scales. In 1/72th we have kit dedicated to the GR.1/IDS/ECR/ADV from Hasegawa, Revell, Italeri, Airfix, Monogram and ESCI (last  two are out-of-production).

In 1/32 scale we have a nice reproduction from Revell, especially for the GR.1/IDS variants, but also a F.2(ADV).

In 1/48 scale we have kits from Italeri, Revell, Airfix, Heller and ESCI.

Except for the ESCI, that was a pre-production IDS replicas... the Italeri and Revell kits share the same mould. Same for the Airfix and Heller kits... they share the same mould.

So, at the end the choices to reproduce a  1/48th Tornado's replica is limited to two kits.

At the moment to start this project none of the available kit was a GR.4... Airfix has a GR.4 in the catalogue 2003... but it's derivates from the old GR.1 mould.

So I had to start from a GR.1/IDS to convert it into a GR.4.



Converting Italeri's 1/48 scale Tornado GR.1


I decided to use the GR.1 kit from Italeri as base, this because compared to the Airfix one, it has recessed panel lines, detailed cockpits and a "better plastic feeling". Shapes and sizes looks ok at first but after a deep analysis many "mistakes" came up.


The kit parts has raised instrument panels... but the instrument panels covers are an "approximate" replicas. In this area the best thing to do is to eliminate the parts provided in the kit and use the resin cockpit set made by Neomega.

It's designed for GR.1/IDS but a little work of "update" can transform it for a GR.4.

Same for the ejection seats... the Martin Baker Mk.10 in the kit are not bad... but nothing compared to the couple included in the Neomega's set.



Xtraparts/Paragon made a nice resin replica of the seat too... but those are out-of-production as for the rest of their product lines.

The cockpit colour is Medium Sea Grey (36270)... I used Humbrol 165. Instrument screens and clocks are Black with White/Light Grey switches. Some Red led and Yellow striped handles are there too.

Seats are Dark Grey with Black headrest cushion. Seat cushion is Dark Green with Yellow-Gold stripes. A couple of Red oxygen ducts are to be reproduced with thin styrene rod for each seat.

In the front cockpit instrument panel the round Moving Map Display has to be substituted  with a squared Multi-Functional-Display.

On top of the rear instrument panels cover there is a little "trapezoidal" box... GR.4 has two of those box... should be lights for the instrument panel.


Forward Airframe

The GR.4 has the FLIR pod added under port side of the nose, corresponding to the LRMTS. This addiction caused the deletion of one of the cannons and the consequent close of the fairing panels. For my model the resin FLIR pod came from an "Airwaves" set dedicated to the GR.4 conversion. A metal FLIR pod is also included in the "Flightpath" detail and conversion set dedicated to the GR1/GR.4 variants.

A small Black antenna blade needs to be added in front of the FLIR pod.

The plastic LRMTS pod is not the best... needs to be sanded to obtain a much better profile.

Two Light Grey "rhomboidal" placard needs to be added on the front fuselage side just where the front windscreen finish.

Three small rectangular pieces of thin plasticard were added in front of the windscreen to simulated the rain dispersal ducts.

Antennas blade over and under the nose are photo etched parts.

I decided to install the extended IFRP, but I used only the base from the kit parts, with some rework and details done at the attaching point. The extended parts are completely scratch build. Thin copper wires were added to simulate the electrical cable.


Central Airframe

The upper fuselage contour after the cockpit is a little bit wrong... should be much linear... but is not a big mistake. Can be corrected using epoxy putty.

A small circular White GPS antenna has to be added between the warning black "Fragile Area" stencil and the two antenna blades.

I opted to put a couple of soft cover on the main engine intakes, made using masking tape. These are Dark Green with Red White warning tags.

To join the front fuselage section with the central section I put some references styrene parts inside. This result in a much stronger attaching point.

All the joints needs a lot of cyano glue and putty. 

Under the rear section of the fuselage I rebuilt the arresting hook and added a couple of intakes. Here, with thin plasticard, I reproduced the metal plates and a small antenna blade was added.

I replaced the speed brake vanes with Eduard photo etched parts... better than the plastic parts but not the best... scratch build should be best here.



A parked Tornado with open wings and extended flaps&slates looks "beautiful" to me.

I've got the resin flaps&slates produced by Paragon... not so easy to be used.

Plastic flap&slates were removed from the wings. Everything was dry-fit tested many times before glued together.

I not glued the wings inside the fuselages as reported in the instruction sheet. Just cut off the plastic attaching point on the wings... the result will be an open semi-circular area. This will give you the option to put the wings inside the fuselage only after that everything is painted, using the pivot point inside the fuselage as references. The rubber part where the wings enter into the fuselage were made using the Eduard photo etched parts.



Here there is the biggest "mistake" of the kit: the front section of the vertical fin is completely wrong and must be replaced. I used the resin part from Paragon.

A precision cut has to be done and dry-fit is a must. Epoxy putty too.

The RWR fairing has to be shorted.

A small triangular fuel vent dump need to installed just over the vertical rudder.

Under the RWR rear fairing some Tornados has a small circular fairing, maybe a light... mine has this.



I used the resin afterburner parts with the reverse thrust mechanism made by Paragon.





I used the resin pylons, for wings and fuselage both, made by Paragon. I added scratch build external launch rails for ALARM missiles on the inboard wing pylons.


Weapons and Fuel Tanks

I compared the big "Hindenburg" resin fuel tanks produced by Paragon and Flightpath and I was not so happy for shape and size... and for the weight.

So having a pair of these big tanks from the Airfix kit, I decided to rescribe all the panels and to use the four resin fins from Paragon. At the end I had two nice big tanks not to much heavy.

They are painted in the old RAF camouflage, Dark Green/Dark Sea Grey... Humbrol 163 and 164.



A resin TIALD pod came from Amraam Line.

A Paveway III LGB came from the newest Hasegawa Weapon set, has for the AIM-9Ms.

ALARM missiles are from the Airfix GR.1... but with much reworked done and with thin plasticard fins (12 each missile... sigh!): colour is Light Aircraft Grey (Humbrol 127).

BOZ chaff&flares launcher and Sky Shadow ECM pods are resin parts from Paragon: colour is Dark Camouflage Grey (Humbrol 156).



Because of the "heavy" weight of the completed model, I decide to use the metal undercarriage legs made from Aeroclub... I do not recommend this set to all, because it's hard to be worked and a little bit "short". Anyway, at the end I used the set.

Legs and wheels are Gloss White (Humbrol 130).

Wheels contained in the kits are not good... so I decide to use the "flatted" resin set from Paragon, very nice done: with my big surprise(...) when everything was in place, my Tornado looks like a Formula 1 car... the LGB under the belly was at less than 1mm from the padding surface!

The "short" metal legs plus the "flat" resin wheels was the reason of this shame!!!

My safe were the plastic wheels from the Airfix GR.1... not so nice as the Paragon, but correct and "inflated" enough to put some "mm" between the aircraft and the table.

Thin copper wires were added to simulate the hydraulic tubes. 



The clear plastic part has a seams line in the middle and a MDC. A lot of extra detail needs to be added inside the canopy structure, as for six back-mirrors.

MDC was simulated with thin pointed Black marker by "Gunze Sangyo Gundam Serie".

The canopy structure outside is Dark Sea Grey (Humbrol 164), and inside is Black.



Painting and Markings



RAF Tornado GR.4 carry the "double-grey" standard camouflage: Dark Camouflage Grey (Humbrol 156) overall with Dark Sea Grey (Humbrol 164) for upper surfaces.

Radar radome is Black, as for some vertical fin areas covering antennas.

Pre-shading with airbrush and weathering with dry-brush and inks was done as usual.



Model reproduced a RAF 31 squadron "Gold Stars" GR.4, based at RAF Marham.

Serial code is "ZA554" and tail code is " DF".



Squadron markings, serial/codes, step markings, roundels and fin flash came from Xtradecal sheets dedicated to the "RAF-2000" air force. Looks ok but it's not perfect... squadron markings are a little bit under sized, and serial number has a little of white outlined. Yellow stencils do not  represent all the type of English/German warnings. Step markings are a little bit large and grey colour is "anonymous".

Many other stencils came from Tauro Models decal sheets and from Tiger Wings decal sheet.

An access ladder was almost scratch build. Dark Green is the colour with Yellow markings.





Pictures were took with my "Olympus" digital camera.

A big effort (both economic and work hours) is required to have a nice Tornado replica in 1/48th scale. Again, a lesson of true was learned: not all the "conversions" or "detail set" are good only because the name...






Additional Images


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Model, Images and Text Copyright 2003 by Piero De Santis
Page Created 02 May, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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