The Panavia Tornado is a jet engine fighter-bomber jointly developed as the Multi-role combat aircraft - or MRCA - by Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. It first flew on August 14th, 1974. International co-operation continued after its entry into service within a tri-nation training and evaluation unit operating from Cottesmore in Rutland in the English Midlands.
There are two main variants of the aircraft in service with the Royal Air Force, the air defence and strike variants. The former is known as the Tornado F3, and the latter as the Tornado GR4 in RAF service. A minor variant of the GR4 is the GR4A, in which one of the GR4's 27mm cannons is replaced by a reconnaissance pod. Recently, some RAF F3's were modified to be able to fire the ALARM anti-radiation missile, and thus be able to take on the mission of suppression of enemy air defences or SEAD. There are also rumoured plans to equip the F3's with TIALD pods, giving them the abilty to drop laser guided bombs, making them true multirole aircraft. Traditionally the ground-attack versions are camouflaged in a grey/green pattern whilst the fighter or air defence model is in light grey overall. In operations over Iraq, a sandy pink scheme has often been applied and the light grey scheme was applied to both variants. German Navy examples normally sport a distinctive black/blue/grey camouflage pattern. Some original RAF aircraft have been loaned or sold (?) to the Italian Air Force to boost its strength.