THE FIRST OF three development Tornado GR.4s, converted from development GR.1 XZ631/P15, made its first flight from British Aerospace’s Warton plant on May 29. GEC-Marconi equipment in the aircraft includes the HUD, cockpit symbol generator, SPARTAN passive terrain referenced navigation and terrain following system, digital map database and display, terrain following display, computer loading system, video recorder and enhanced stores management system. The company’s NVG and FUR equipment will also be integrated into the MLU aircraft.
Following its success in the Gulf War, the GEC-Marconi Avionics thermal-imaging airborne loser-designator (TIALD) pod is also to be included as part of the GR.4 upgrade with over 100 pods, worth around £150 million, included if the MLU goes ahead.
Doubts on funding for the programme have been voiced for some time but a decision on whether it will go ahead was expected in July. It is also likely that the MLU will either be to a lower standard than originally envisaged, with some elements removed in order to reduce costs, or will involve fewer aircraft. Subject to successful conclusion of a production contract, BAe anticipates delivering the first GR.4 to the RAF in 1997.