|This page is about the British jet fighter Tornado F.3. For other versions, see Tornado (Family).
- 1 Description
- 2 General info
- 3 Armaments
- 4 Usage in battles
- 5 History
- 6 Media
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
The introduction of the Panavia Tornado F.3 marked an enduring chapter in the annals of the Royal Air Force, leaving an indelible impact from its debut in the late 1970s through its operational legacy well into the new millennium. The Tornado F.3's sophisticated air-to-air weaponry and radar systems were prominently showcased, exemplifying its adaptability during its role as a vital guardian of British airspace during the Gulf War and beyond. As the new millennium dawned, the Tornado F.3 continued to play a crucial part in coalition endeavours, most notably supporting various NATO missions and contributing to peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans. Its legacy stretches beyond its operational significance, serving as a testament to the RAF's unwavering dedication to advanced aerial tactics and strategic air power projection throughout its service history.
It was introduced in Update "Sky Guardians". Diverging from the GR.1 variant, the Panavia Tornado assumes the role of a fighter-interceptor in its F.3 version. Designed with a focus on air-superiority, this aircraft boasts an array of impressive missile capabilities, positioning itself as a formidable adversary against airborne threats. Equipped with advanced missile systems including the AIM-9L Sidewinder and Skyflash SuperTEMP, the Tornado F.3 is primed to excel in modern aerial combat scenarios. The AIM-9L Sidewinder enhances its close-range combat capabilities, providing a potent tool for engaging agile opponents at short distances. Meanwhile, the Skyflash SuperTEMP missile system elevates its long-range engagement potential, enabling the Tornado F.3 to neutralize even the most sophisticated and distant enemy aircraft with precision and efficacy. With these sophisticated missile technologies at its disposal, the Tornado F.3 confidently stands as a vigilant guardian of the skies, ready to swiftly and effectively counter any potential airborne intrusion.
The Tornado is a variable wing sweep plane, meaning it can adapt the wings to the current speed to avoid structural failure or extreme performance loss. Wing sweep is controlled automatically, unless the pilot forces manual controls. Flaps can only be used in wide wing sweep mode (on automatic controls up to ~760 km/h, on manual they can sustain about 1,100 km/h) and will automatically fold when the wings are swept back (meaning you don't have to think about doing it yourself). Flying the plane in manual mode outside of combat is not recommended as it is easy to forget about the wing angle when it's not a focus of pilot's attention, resulting in wing damage.
The roll rate without improved boosters is not very fast, but serviceable. Installation of improved boosters also improves roll on this plane, but removes safety restrictions and may allow the pilot to casually snap the wings by pulling and rolling simultaneously, so it is up to the user if they want to deal with this or not. The plane in general dislikes rolling and the wings will eventually snap if it continues to spin for prolonged periods of time, especially when also turning or suddenly doing negative G.
The afterburner is extremely inefficient and will easily consume 45 minutes of fuel where other planes could get away with 15. Fortunately, 45 minutes is enough to reach enemy on most maps, deal with them, and then fly back without afterburner with about 6 minutes left. Plane does not overheat from prolonged afterburner flight, at least not until it runs out of normal fuel load.
This Tornado version is often mildly faster than the bomber versions due to not carrying an additional cannon and is more stable than the German Tornados. It also does not pose such a high risk of snapping wings due to missiles having negligible weight compared to bombs.
Maximum speed at ground level in folded wing mode is 1,500 km/h, at which point the plane will start to shake and might break up, but to reach such speed the plane generally must dive from at least 4 km altitude, and have afterburner on to retain it. Without the help of gravity, the plane can fly at around 1,300 km/h with afterburner on until upgraded. Even then, minor flight direction corrections will reduce average speed. Without afterburner, the plane generally tends to unfold itself and flies at around 1,100 km/h or less.
It is ill-advised to commit to prolonged turnfights with enemies even in a wide wing mode, unless you know what you are doing, as the plane has poor acceleration rate. It may outturn some fighters, at least temporarily, but both planes would have to stall so hard that literally anyone else can take them out.
In a case of an emergency, pilot can manually order the wings to unsweep at about 1,100 km/h and immediately use combat flaps while they are still transitioning to turn into the enemy. This will sacrifice all of the plane's speed, allowing it to do one deadly attack if the pilot doesn't pass out from excessive Gs. The main and obvious downside is that lot of inputs are required to do all these actions and they need to be done near simultaneously. Any control mistake or even speed miscalculation will cause the plane to self-destruct as the wing rip speed is much lower than the one of the flaps.
Minimal speed is 330 km/h, at which the plane will glide forward with minimal height and speed loss. This can be exploited to minimize pulse-Doppler interference on radar or to survive for as long as feasible with engines off when swarmed by IR missiles. This also implies that the plane can glide over significant distances even without engines. The engines turn on in about 10 seconds and it takes a while for engine thrust to overtake gravity, so it must be turned on before the plane is about to crash due to loss of all energy, not as it already happens.
As a gimmick, the Tornado also has the option of reverse thrust. It allows to use engine output to slow the plane down instead of having to shut it off. This can be used both in air combat (together with or instead of brakes) and during landing (instead of the drag chute which the plane lacks). Upon landing, the engines can be simply shut off to prevent the plane from beginning to accelerate backwards.
| Max speed
(km/h at 11,582 m)
| Max altitude
| Turn time
| Rate of climb
| Take-off run
|Max Static G
|Optimal velocities (km/h)
|Wing loading (full internal fuel)
|Turbo-Union RB199-34R Mk.104
|Mass with internal fuel (no weapons load)
|Afterburning low-bypass turbofan
|Thrust to weight ratio @ 0 m (WEP)
| 4,169 kgf
| 8,173 kgf
Survivability and armour
The Tornado's fuselage inherits the general sturdiness of the Jaguar, so it can take a rough landing at 700 km/h and will in general sustain damage without falling apart. Occasionally, the plane will survive explosions of small missiles, though this will severely reduce flight performance and should be avoided.
The wings tend to snap after taking a direct hit with explosives. Depending on severity of overall wing damage, the plane might still continue to fly with half a wing or lose all semblance of control and spiral into the ground. Loss of the tail is fatal and recovery after that is impossible.
The engines are tightly packed and tend to be destroyed together, but sometimes one of them remains functional.
The Tornado F.3 does not have any armour plates within the plane, most of the plane's central fuselage contains self-sealing fuel tanks. Having too much fuel fills the wings with fuel as well. This means the Tornado F.3 is very likely to catch fire if hit by enemy rounds or missiles, especially in the engine area. EFS is available that could potentially save the aircraft in the case of an engine fire.
Tornado F.3 can carry a lot of countermeasures on its wings and it has several large countermeasures as a last resort on its hull. Unfortunately, it is impossible to separate loadouts and controls for either countermeasure type, the large ones are used last after the small ones run out. The Tornado's afterburners run rather hot, so it is always recommended to briefly drop back to military power when attempting to flare off incoming IR missiles. The large quantity of countermeasures also allows periodic flares to be used for a while when entering a hectic airspace, allowing missiles from surprise enemy aircraft to be "pre-flared".
Another use for the excessive countermeasure count is to become semi-immune to ARH missiles by spamming chaff every 5 seconds while flying high in the sky, if pilot does not want to go down to the ground or to think about this threat at all. This seriously messes with missiles such as the Phoenix, though the periodic chaff release must be kept on through the entire flight, and it is not recommended to fly directly at them, otherwise the missile can reacquire the lock again. This does not do anything to CW SARH missiles guided by pulse-Doppler radars, and any actual missile lock alerts are not to be ignored.
Modifications and economy
The Tornado F.3 is armed with:
- 1 x 27 mm Mauser BK27 cannon, chin-mounted (180 rpg)
- 32 x large calibre countermeasures
The main cannon is filled with APHE as main ammunition in all loadouts, so it is good at causing plane fires and destroying lightly armoured targets, including light pillboxes or tanks. The gun can destroy howitzers in 3-4 hits from 3 km away, which is decent considering the low ammunition count.
The gun can receive gun radar assist at about 1.5 km range. In this mode, the gun pointer demonstrates what the shells will intercept, all pilot has to do is to fire and "slice" enemy plane hull with the gun pointer while doing so. Accuracy of the gun radar is about 80% and it is very reliable even against wiggling enemy planes within ground interference and despite low fire rate of a gun, making it superior to radar missiles during ground level fights.
The Tornado F.3 can be outfitted with the following ordnance:
|AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles
|1, 2 *
|1, 2 *
|Skyflash SuperTEMP missiles
|330 gal drop tanks
|* Countermeasures can be carried with Sidewinder missiles on the same hardpoint
|Default weapon presets
The Tornado F.3 only gets to carry missiles as weapons, and the choice is rather straight forward, as they come in separate groups with direct upgrades.
AIM-9L can be utilized as a "parry" missile, as it gets agitated by any enemy missiles and will try to hit them instead of enemy plane if they fire anything. Otherwise it is sometimes useful against similar variable wing planes, in attacks from behind, or if the enemy is unaware or forgets to flare (quite uncommon at rank VII). Tornado F.3 can utilize "TWS" radar mode to slave and fire the 9L at multiple planes without changing flight direction.
The Skyflashes are the same as those used on Phantom FGR.2 and FG.1. The main advantage is that they can be launched at ridiculous angles and still manage to acquire the lock, then they turn towards the enemy right after launch without wasting time. This combines well with the "look up" and "wide" ACM radar mode, as the plane is often forced to ground level without even being able to pull the nose up by other radar missiles. In general, these missiles can acquire anything within 30 degrees of the plane nose, better if the target is below the plane (radar scope can be checked to see how many degrees above or below the nose is the selected target).
Skyflash SuperTEMP modification is slightly better than normal Skyflash in every regard, but the most notable difference is that upgraded missiles are far less prone to randomly lose track of the target (and then self-destruct as a result) when launched to the side. While SuperTEMP doesn't reach SRAAM level of reliability and can be outstalled in a SARH duel, it can casually intercept planes at 2.5 to 8 km ranges if they dare to leave the ground protection.
Usage in battles
The Tornado F.3 is outclassed by higher tier aircraft, and is heavily dependent on its weaponry and avionics to be competitive.
During the early grind, AIM-9Ls and the radar assisted gun are the only options, meaning that you have to stay at ground level (about 20-30 m above ground) to avoid being instantly obliterated by SARH missiles. Try to stick to the flat ground, and if that is impossible, try to "dive" into the openings instead of going over them, as you will momentarily lose ground echo protection.
This makes early Tornado F.3 gameplay that of a "first encounter" plane - simply be there first and cause as much chaos as you can before enemy gets you, so your team can finish them off, or flank enemy team from the side and hope they did not notice you approaching. The gun scope does not care about "ground echo" that completely destroys radar missiles, so you can easily snipe your opponents in a head-on. Even if all you do is cause some fires, this will spell doom for the enemy plane, as they can be easily cleaned up by teammates.
A lot of planes that stick to the ground carry AIM-9Ls or R-60 variants, so turn afterburner off before actually engaging enemy planes and fire some flares while you go at them, especially at 900 m range and when pulling over hills.
In general, while grinding upgrades, try to learn how the plane radar operates. It is much more tolerant to speed differences than the "Phantom" radar and has more utility modes. Every normal mode marks allies as allies on your radar display and tries to skip them to avoid friendly fire. It has 4 standard modes and 3 ACM modes.
Normal modes are:
- Pulse-Doppler range-based mode is the default and is the least useful to Tornado F.3 mode in terms of additional information. Pulse-Doppler is immune to chaff. Used when locking on by default.
- TWS, which is a pulse-Doppler mode that allows to continuously scan a certain direction without actually locking onto it. This is the most useful scout mode, as you can set radar range to 96 km while taking off and it will immediately soft-lock and "stick" itself to enemy players that are just taking off from their airfield, so you know where they went. Upon reaching 50 km range you can use TWS to guess if enemy fired any long range missiles yet (they are quite visible in 39 km mode, usually it is a faint dot next to originating plane with a much longer "speed" line, flying at 1,100 m/s when selected). Tends to be inaccurate until actual lock is enforced, but can be used to fire AIM-9L through "selecting" targets without actually locking onto them (high level players spam flares upon receiving radar lock just to be safe).
- Pulse-Doppler speed based mode - alternate radar mode that shows relative speed of enemy planes instead of range. Also demonstrates the dead zone of the pulse-Doppler, allowing you to gauge if it will be easy for current target to lose your radar lock and counter a Skyflash that way.
- Search - basic radar mode. Tends to wiggle and lock onto everyone around current target, not immune to chaff and is often bad (though not useless) at and especially against low altitudes. Does not have a speed dead zone unlike pulse-Doppler. Locking while using it will use "normal" lock as well.
ACM does not have IFF and will lock onto everything and anything that goes into the radar scope. You can swap between "pulse-doppler" and "normal" ACM if one or another does not work on your current target, but upon lock loss the PD mode will be activated again by default. There are 3 scope types to choose from:
- Normal small square - same as with every plane, primarily used when going into intense fight with teammates involved, as otherwise it is very easy to attack wrong target.
- Wide square - general use scope for ground level fights, allows you to lock onto anything that you can realistically target with a gun, with some additional reach above and below you for missiles.
- Look-up - mode that specifically looks in a thin line 31-60 degrees above you. Can be used both at ground level and in the sky by rolling the plane, if you want to target something on the side or below.
One of the most important features of the Tornado F.3's radar is that, even while locked on, you can swap between pulse-doppler and normal lock without breaking it. Even if your target "notches" (goes perpendicular to you), you can temporarily swap to normal tracking mode to continue guiding the Skyflash. You can even save the lock that is already "blinking" if you are fast enough. Remember to swap back to pulse-Doppler after the dead-zone window had passed, as normal search mode tends to throw the missile around, which reduces its speed severely.
The Skyflash SuperTEMPs are very potent but not on par with the AIM-7F Sparrows. They accelerate faster and will outpace the AIM-7F within 4-6 km in a straight line, but refrain from trying to BVR duel with more modern Phantom variants. The Skyflash will hang at around the same speed as the AIM-7F at BVR ranges. Due to how long the AIM-7F/M burns it will eventually outpace the Skyflash at longer ranges. The Skyflash is not an effective weapon against the R-27ER or the Matra Super 530D. Your prime targets are unsuspecting targets 4-9 km away heading generally towards you. You can also use it from behind at targets that try to pull away at ranges of 1.5 km or so, due to the high tolerance of Tornado pulse-Doppler radar, which is ironically reinforced through simultaneously amazing and poor energy retention of the plane itself. The slower Tornado goes, the harder it is to lose pulse-Doppler lock by flying away from it and the plane is extremely unlikely to crash even when stalled to the minimum speed, while also being very likely to be in this situation due to how poorly it turns sometimes.
If not hanging at ground level, avoid entering and staying in the furball as then you will likely have many missiles shot at you, combined with the Tornado's poor manoeuvrability that means almost certain death. Instead, lock up head-on targets using ACM mode then fire off a Skyflash at your enemy, if they also launch a missile at you, start to notch their radar as fast as you can while releasing flares and chaff, or immediately drop to the ground (lower than 30 metres). If the enemy starts to notch your radar, switch the radar mode from PD HDN to standard search as it'll be immune to notching, though it may not work if you are above or in front of a mountain (due to general ground clutter) or enemy is spamming chaff. Another option is to lock up the enemy with radar but fire off an AIM-9L instead, then continue to behave as if you fired radar missile. Sometimes this will confuse the enemy into not releasing flares as they will believe that you fired a Skyflash instead of a AIM-9L, though at long range most people will try to flare at least once before starting to panic.
Don't dogfight. You have no workable advantages against your opponent unless they are already badly crippled with large sections of their wings/tail missing. If you are chased, get a teammate to cover your back or run back to the airfield. Try and fly in a straight line given your speed bleed in any sort of turn manoeuvre, but also keep an eye out for potential IR missiles.
The Tornado F.3 likes to fly predictable, straight paths and makes very predictable manoeuvres. Any enemy with an ounce of situational awareness will easily be able to keep tabs on you with no effort whatsoever. You can't really make unpredictable manoeuvres and sneak up on people given your overall lack of mobility in any direction other than forward. This makes it hard to employ your AIM-9Ls or your guns, given it is very difficult to stick to an opponent's tail for a good rear aspect shot. Although you will still find the AIM-9L to be a very consistent weapon and a good close to mid range missile.
At lower BRs, you can outrange pretty much anyone at your own BR with Skyflash missiles. Your biggest challenge will be F-4J/S with their AIM-7Fs and PDV radars. You have a fair chance of spotting and locking them first given your superior radar. However this doesn't mean you have the advantage as the AIM-7F will out-speed the Skyflash SuperTEMP. If a missile joust must be started, try to delay the launch of the enemy missile until a close distance (lower than around 8 km) as in those ranges the Skyflash will out-speed the AIM-7F.
Avoid pulling negative Gs in the Tornado F.3. As with most British planes and many top tier planes, the negative G performance of the Tornado is poor. Unlike the British Phantoms, your wings are not sturdy enough to sustain negative Gs even for a few seconds, often snapping as soon as you put your nose down if you equipped "new boosters". The Tornado is generally an unstable aircraft and prone to flat spinning as soon as the wing falls off, so don't expect to get back to base once you've lost a wing. Rolling with boosters can easily make the Tornado snap its wings. When in a turn, refrain from rolling in a -2G+ turn or else there is a good chance you may loose one or both wings. You may not have the controllability to recover and you may go into an uncontrollable spin depending on how violently you were rolling.
Countering common radar missiles
- AIM-7F/M. Your Skyflash SuperTEMP will be faster than these missiles when under 6-8 km, above that distance, the AIM-7F/M will be faster.
- R-27ER/ER1. This missile will outperform the Skyflash SuperTEMP in every way, the only possible way to shoot down a MiG-29 or Yak-141 in the missile joust is to fire first, attempt to parry their missile with 9L before attacking, or try to go into their radar blind spot by notching, going next to the ground or at least going below the enemy plane, because their radars have worse tracking angles below (45° versus 60° of the Tornado F.3)
- Matra Super 530D. At close range, the Skyflash SuperTEMP has better acceleration and will eventually out range the Matra Super 530D.
- Aspide-1A. Very fast missile, but the carriers of these missiles either have weak flight performance (F-104S.ASA) or a weak radar (J-8B). The Skyflash SuperTEMP will also outrange the Aspide-1A.
- AIM-54A Phoenix. These missiles have a lot of range, generally produce no missile alerts and are self-sufficient, however it's very easy to notice the incoming missile on TWS radar display and simply notch it. Long range launch can be countered by periodic chaff release (once in 5 seconds should work).
Pros and cons
- High top speed at low altitudes
- Has a lot of countermeasures, including large-calibre ones
- Can carry 8 air-to-air missiles at once
- Has radar gunsight that is immune to ground echo interference
- Advanced radar for its BR
- Includes TWS that indicates direction of enemy
- PD radar has IFF mode
- Higher PD speed threshold than all rank VII and many rank VIII planes
- Can carry drop tanks to extend range to compensate for its intense fuel consumption
- Has reverse thrust to reduce landing distance and to stall midair
- Poor turning performance in any wing mode
- Very difficult to kinetically dodge SARH missiles
- Mediocre acceleration
- Equipping "new boosters" will allow it to snap its own wings if not handled carefully
- Other BVR missiles have a longer range in an uptier, has to stay low on ground
- Limited 19 km ACM range, may be too short in uptier.
- The 27 mm cannon has a low rate of fire, low ammunition count, and mediocre damage if it didn't set target on fire
- If engine was destroyed and hard landing is not an option, landing will take a long time as there is no drag chute
The Panavia Tornado F3, a pivotal aircraft in the annals of military aviation, emerged from the geopolitical tensions of the Cold War. This aircraft was not just a machine of war; it was a symbol of multinational collaboration and technological advancement in the face of a rapidly evolving global threat landscape.
The genesis of the Tornado F3 can be traced back to the late 1960s when the need for a sophisticated multi-role combat aircraft became evident among NATO allies. Europe, caught in the throes of the Cold War, was in dire need of an effective defense against the possibility of Soviet incursions, particularly from the air. The response to this necessity was a remarkable collaboration between three nations: the United Kingdom, West Germany, and Italy. These countries formed the Panavia Aircraft GmbH consortium, pooling their resources and expertise to create a platform that could adapt to various combat roles. The outcome of this collaboration was the Panavia Tornado, an aircraft family that would include the formidable Tornado F3 interceptor.
Originally designed as a multi-role combat aircraft, the Tornado's versatility was its hallmark. While it had variants like the GR1 for strike/attack missions and the ECR for electronic combat/reconnaissance, the evolving geopolitical landscape necessitated a dedicated air defense variant. This led to the development of the Tornado F3, a variant that specialized in the interception and neutralization of airborne threats. Distinct from its siblings, the Tornado F3 featured a longer fuselage to accommodate additional fuel, enhancing its endurance — a critical attribute for an interceptor. Equipped with the sophisticated Foxhunter radar and armed with air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder and the Skyflash, the F3 was a formidable opponent in the skies.
Entering service with the Royal Air Force in the mid-1980s, the Tornado F3 became a cornerstone of Britain’s air defense. It replaced aging aircraft like the English Electric Lightning and the F-4 Phantom II, embodying a new era of air defense capabilities. Throughout the latter stages of the Cold War, the F3 was a sentinel in the skies, regularly conducting patrols and intercepts of unidentified or potentially hostile aircraft near UK airspace. Though it never engaged in high-intensity dogfights, its presence acted as a significant deterrent.
The Tornado F3's combat history, while not marked by prolific aerial battles, nonetheless encompasses critical deployments. During the Gulf War in 1990-91, the F3s were deployed primarily in air defense roles, safeguarding coalition forces against the Iraqi aerial threat, which, as it turned out, was minimal. In the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s, the F3 again played a key role, focusing on air defense and patrol duties.
As the 21st century dawned, the technological landscape of aerial warfare continued to evolve, and with it, the requirements for air defense. The Tornado F3 began to give way to more advanced aircraft like the Eurofighter Typhoon. By 2011, the RAF had fully retired its fleet of Tornado F3s, marking the end of an era. The Italian Air Force, which had also operated a number of F3s, transitioned to other platforms.
The story of the Tornado F3 is not just one of technological innovation and military might; it is a narrative about the response to a global challenge through international cooperation. As an integral part of NATO's air defense strategy during the final decades of the Cold War, the Tornado F3 represented a harmonious blend of strategic foresight, engineering excellence, and operational effectiveness. Even though it never engaged in the intense aerial combat for which it was designed, its role as a deterrent and protector during a pivotal period in modern history cements its legacy in the annals of military aviation.
- Related development
- Tornado (Family) , Tornado ADV is essentially identical.
- MiG-23MLD - similar plane of the Soviet, variations of which are commonly seen in battle.
Paste links to sources and external resources, such as:
- topic on the official game forum;
- other literature.
|Panavia Aircraft GmbH
|◄Tornado IDS WTD61 · ◄Tornado IDS ASSTA1 · ◄Tornado IDS MFG
|Tornado GR.1 · Tornado F.3
|Tornado ADV · ▄Tornado IDS (1995)
|Britain jet aircraft
|Buccaneer S.1 · Buccaneer S.2
|Harrier GR.7 · Sea Harrier FRS.1 (e) · Sea Harrier FRS.1
|British Aircraft Corporation
|Canberra B Mk 2 · Canberra B (I) Mk 6 · Lightning F.6 · Lightning F.53
|Meteor F Mk 3 · Sea Meteor F Mk 3 · Meteor F Mk 4 G.41F · Meteor F Mk 4 G.41G · Meteor F Mk 8 G.41K · Meteor F Mk.8 Reaper
|Javelin F.(A.W.) Mk.9
|Vampire FB 5 · Venom FB.4 · Sea Venom FAW 20 · Sea Vixen F.A.W. Mk.2
|Sea Hawk FGA.6 · Hunter F.1 · Hunter F.6 · Hunter FGA.9 · Harrier GR.1 · Harrier GR.3
|Tornado GR.1 · Tornado F.3
|Jaguar GR.1 · Jaguar GR.1A
|Attacker FB 1 · Attacker FB.2 · Scimitar F Mk.1 · Swift F.1 · Swift F.7
|Phantom FG.1 (USA) · Phantom FGR.2 (USA) · F-4J(UK) Phantom II (USA)