In 1965, the British Aerospace TSR.2 strike aircraft was cancelled, due to cost overruns and other difficulties. Designed to replace the Canberra, the TSR.2 mission still needed to be filled. For a short time, the British MoD considered a variant of the General Dynamics F-111, but that contract would also be abruptly cancelled. In the meantime, Germany and Italy were also facing upcoming voids in their strike capabilities.
After a number of successful meetings, the Tornado concept was born.
Built by the multi-national Panavia company, the Tornado was designed as a variable geometry fighter that can penetrate into hostile airspace at supersonic speeds as well as operate from short, ad-hoc runways. The Tornado would be one of the only operational fighters to feature thrust reversers that can automatically deploy on touchdown and significantly reduce landing roll with minimal wear on the brakes and no need for a drogue chute. The aircraft also featured a two-place cockpit, recognizing that the workload in flying, navigating, and operating the aircraft's advanced systems was more than one person can effectively manage.
The movable wings are mounted high on the fuselage, giving ample ground clearance for external underwing stores. The wing is designed to pivot the four underwing pylons to compensate for sweep. That takes a significant amount of strength and engineering to suspend a pylon and external stores on a single pivot!
The Tornado was developed in a number of variants, a strike/reconnaissance version for the RAF, a similar version for the Luftwaffe and Italian Air Force, a maritime strike aircraft for the German Navy, a Wild Weasel (ECR) version for the Luftwaffe, and an Air Defense Fighter (ADF) version for the RAF. To date, the only export customer for the Tornado outside the tri-national team is Saudi Arabia, operating both strike and ADF versions.
The Tornado fired its first shots in anger during Operation Desert Storm. Some initial losses were due to getting too close to Iraqi air defenses while using the JP runway denial system. Nevertheless, the Tornado operated as well, if not better than hoped. The RAF realized that the Tornado needed the ability to deliver laser-guided munitions, and procurement was underway for the TIALD system. TIALD was not ready for the Tornado during the opening days of the conflict, so the venerable Buccaneer was brought over to designate targets with its laser pod while the Tornados delivered the goods.
This is a US issue of the Revell/Germany 1/32 Tornado GR.1 kit. A few years ago, Revell/Germany released the Tornado IDS, which was also released in the US, as a modernization/re-tool of their original 1/32 Tornado kit. The GR.1 kit is the first 1/32 Tornado kit to feature all of the RAF-unique features, including the laser rangefinder under the nose and air refueling system.
The kit is molded in medium grey plastic, with the exception of one tree molded in light grey and, of course, the clear parts.
The cockpit is nicely detailed and will look great straight out of the box. Given the scale of the kit, though, this kit will also lend itself to some super detailing, as this part of the model is quite visible under that huge canopy. The ejection seats are also nice and usable straight out of the box, though there are resin MB Mk.10 seats available should you chose to go that route.
The instructions indicate that 2 ounces of weight are required to keep the kit on its gear, though I'm a little skeptical about that amount if the wings are swept aft. Speaking of wings, they do pivot , and the pylons also rotate under the wings, but there is no mechanism for interconnecting the pylons to the wing sweep system as on the real aircraft, so you're on your own to re-align the pylons after a wing move. Better yet, glue them into place. The horizontal stabs are also designed to pivot, though you'll probably want to pick a pose and glue them into place.
Detailing is quite nice straight out of the box throughout the kit, from the unique thrust-reversing afterburner nozzles to the intake ducts and speed brakes.
One of the complaints of the old, original 1/32 Tornado kit (of many years ago) was the landing gear. While I'm not certain it is absolutely prototypical, it is definitely well-detailed! The mounting points brake lines, and even flattened tires, indicate the Revell-Germany attention to detail.
Assembly of the kit appears very straightforward. By the time you reach step 10, you've completed the basic airplane, and it is time to build all of the other models in this kit. Other models? Yes indeed - this kit comes with absolutely the nicest array of 1/32 US/NATO weapons around. The kit includes two Tornado-standard 1500 liter external fuel tanks, two 2250 liter Hindenburg tanks (used by the Tornado ADF until Desert Storm and the GR.1 crew wanted the extra range!), two Paveway LGBs, two standard NATO 1000 lb bombs, 2 AIM-9L Sidewinders, one Sky Shadow and one BOZ self-defense pods, and all of the detailed external mounting points under the aircraft.
The decal sheet is a nice touch. It features two Desert Storm veterans that were painted Desert Tan. Since the aircraft were hastily painted for the deployment, the Tornados lacked the volumes of stenciling usually found on the aircraft. The Revell/Germany release of the GR.1 featured the normal RAF schemes and the decal sheet that contained all of the markings for stenciling, etc., was as big as the box! The decal sheet in the US release also features a nice array of weapons stenciling that adds more depth/reality to your final product.
The series of 1/32 aircraft that have been coming from Revell/Germany, including the MiG-21MF, the Tornado IDS, the Hawker Hunter, and now the Tornado GR.1, are all very welcome additions to the large-scale builders' collections. It is great to see Revell-Monogram issue these kits in the US/North American market as that also equates to a lower retail price. You'll want at least one of these kits to build, and another for the useful parts for other projects.
If you are also so-inclined to super detail this aircraft (and this is a great model to work with), you'll want to look at the 1/32 Tornado details available from Paragon (including flaps and slats), CAM (including ejection seats and an avionics bay), and Flightpath (which is set that is in and out of production, but includes some of the most intricate detailing I've seen for a kit). Check out the Hannants website for any of these items. My sincere thanks to Revell-Monogram for this review sample!