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Aircraft Review : Panavia Tornado GR4 by X-Trident

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Tornado_Header.jpg

 

Aircraft Review : Panavia Tornado GR4 by X-Trident

 

After the cancellation of the United Kingdom's BAC TSR-2 project in 1965 the country was put in limbo in finding a multi-role aircraft to replace the many different types of aircraft already in service in many different roles, but to also cover their advancing tactical strike/reconnaissance capability but with the added capability to fill another role as a light bomber to replace the current V Bombers.


The trend in the mid-sixties was towards variable-geometry wing designs to gain the manoeuvrability and efficient cruise of straight wings to be combined with the high mach speeds of swept wing designs, and the leading design of the period was the American F-111K. So an order for the F-111 was granted, but swing wing design was a seriously complex and a hard engineering design to overcome and the F-111 fell behind in with it's multiple problems.

 

To cover the F-111's waiting period the American provided F4 Phantoms as they did in Australia as to also the RAF, but eventually as the F-111 was still years from service and the British government decided that their own swing-wing aircraft to suit their own and European needs was now the better quicker route to follow than more costly waiting and so the F-111 order was cancelled. So Australia soldered on as the only F111 foreign purchaser and it was almost a decade before they mastered all the problems and in the long run the F-111 was not overall a very effective or efficient military machine, the many that survived here in Australia cost millions per year to keep in the air.

 

For the German's and Italian's they were in the same frame of mind in their requirements to replace their ageing Lockheed F-104 Starfighters. So a memorandum of agreement was drafted between Britain, West Germany, and Italy (and Holland, but they later dropped out) in May 1969 to create a multi-role aircraft called the MRCA (Multi Role Combat Aircraft) under the German banner of Panavia Aircraft GmbH.

 

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The first of more than a dozen Tornado prototypes took flight on 14 August 1974 at  Manching, Germany, but both the first two prototypes crashed as did a third, but mostly the crashes were through pilot error and not major design flaws but for a few minor modifications to cover airflow disturbances

The contract for the Batch 1 aircraft was signed on 29 July 1976. The first aircraft were delivered to the RAF and German Air Force on 5 and 6 June 1979 respectively. The first Italian Tornado was delivered on 25 September 1981 and at the finish of production in 1998 there was 992 of this excellent aircraft built.

 

There has been no doubt about the overwhelming success of the Panavia Tornado as it has seen service and has had major success in most conflicts since it's inception into service, and is still even now and decades later still giving sterling service until the new but again the very late into service F-35 which is in the shades of the F-111 debacle all over again.

 

X-Trident Panavia Tornado

The Panavia Tornado Project for X-Trident is actually their second aircraft after the excellent AMX Fighter. But the complex Tornado project was put aside to complete their other project of the Bell 412 helicopter that has gone on in X-Plane to great acclaim and has brilliant features.

 

Now the Panavia Tornado is back... big time!

 

Beta 9.0

It is important to make clear at the start of this review is that X-Trident have a slightly different approach than other developers when releasing their aircraft. What you buy and what this review is based on is a Beta version or beta 9.0. This aircraft is not the final completed aircraft, if you want that then you will have to wait for the 1.0 release version, and all the comments in this review are in that context. It is not really that much different from most other releases really, because every primary release is never ever complete anyway, they always need some tidying up and bugs weeded out. But you will find something's here don't work and a few patches of odd design, in other words you are in buying this aircraft just another Apple tester for the aircraft, because that is what Apple also do with all their release now.

 

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Panavia Tornado GR4

Their is no doubt the GR4 Tornado is a very dramatic aircraft in all it's different postures and roles. It is a twin-seater that has three primary Tornado Variants: the Tornado IDS (Interdictor (operates far behind enemy lines)/strike) fighter-bomber, the suppression of enemy air defences in the Tornado ECR (electronic combat/reconnaissance) roles and the Tornado ADV (Air Defence Variant) Interceptor.

 

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First view and feel of the Tornado is dynamic. X-Trident have done a really great modelling design on this iconic euro fighter, there are some gaps in the paneling in that you can see some daylight and they are mostly right up the engine intakes, but otherwise it is all very well done with great detail and perfect realism touches that convey the aircraft correctly.

 

Tornado_detail 1.jpgTornado_detail 2.jpg

 

Excellent detail is highlighted and very evident around the the two engine exhausts as with the layers of the outlets the outer and the inner sections, the variable inner nozzle is amazing in perfect operation as you increase the power to full afterburner....

 

Tornado_detail 3.jpgTornado_detail 4.jpg

 

....    you not only get the nozzle animation but the correct thrust colour changes as well, and it looks really thrust full on powerful...

 

The aircraft's main feature is of course those swing wings...  They can be set any degree rake but you will use mostly three positions from the angles of 68º Wide, 40º mid and 25º full sweep back.

 

Swing wing.jpg

 

Wing animation is smooth with the weapon attachment mounts also moving correctly to compensate for the new angles.

 

On the ground you can see the aircraft with it's ground elements in place. You get engine and inlet covers, remove before flight tags on the aircraft and on the armaments and even a cockpit canopy support, note the excellent rear and realistic engine covers. A cockpit ladder is also provided, that gives you a lot of authenticity on the ground, but there are no wheel chocks or a Ground Power Unit (the aircraft has a built in APU)

 

Tornado_Ground 1.jpgTornado_Ground 2.jpg

Tornado_Ground 3.jpgTornado_Ground 4.jpg

 

Close up the undercarriage detailing is excellent with the twin front and single side wheels, suspension animation is also excellent as is the complex folding and unfolding of the gear out of the fuselage which we will see later.

 

Tornado_Ground 6.jpgTornado_Ground 5.jpg

 

Cockpit

Externally the cockpit has a huge amount of detail, very realistic. Highlights are the amazing canopy design and the stacked instruments for the rear navigator/pilot.

 

Tornado_Ground 7.jpgTornado_Ground 8.jpg

 

If internally it looks complex it is because it is, certainly the areas can be broken down into their different areas of systems, but many are in military speak and not plain English, so a bit of study is required to understand what does what. The current manual is still quite basic, but a full one is the works...  it is required.

 

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The cockpit design is extremely good, very authentic, but most minor switchgear doesn't work at this point, more system integration is promised.

 

The main front panel is dominated by the large central map display with the flight instruments to the left and the engine instruments to the right. Two scopes top are for (left) TFR (Terrain-Following Radar) and (right) RWR (Radar Warning Receiver). The small twist handle top left is for arming the weapons, but it starts up in the Armed and not Safe setting!...  so you have to manually set it correctly.

 

Tornado_Cockpit panel.jpg

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Gear and aircraft situation is noted left main panel and on the right is a panel of annunciators and brake pressure, canopy latch is above.

 

Right arm side panel covers TACAN radio, Navigation radio, In flight refuelling, IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) and external, panel and cockpit lighting.

 

Left arm panel has (top) APU start, and engine start, then throttle, limiter, flaps and wing sweep. (bottom) Autopilot, PFCS (primary flight control system), SPILS (ejector seats) and Comm radio.

 

Tornado_Cockpit throttle.jpg

 

The wing sweep control lever is easy to use with every degree set out for use, and the twin (engine) throttle levers have two actions...  back and forward for thrust, and also they click to the left to auto set the reverse thrusters and if the "Stop latches" are set to up you can then shut down the engines. You have to work out which small arrow does which job on the throttle as there is a few of them and it is easy to pick the wrong one.

 

Tornado_HUD.jpgTornado_weapons panel.jpg

 

The front and centre HUD is excellent, with two selections and weapon arm details. I keep it off while taking off or landing for better runway visibility but that is my choice. Behind the stick (which can be hidden) is the MSI mode panel, then the weapons control panel and lower is a set of switches arranged for a "Rapid Takeoff". Note the "G" meter on the right, it records your highest "G" until you reset it.

 

Tornado_Cockpit 11.jpgTornado_Cockpit 12.jpg

 

Centre joystick is excellent, but check out the bank movement as the grip moves only from the centre axis to the left or right...

 

Tornado_Cockpit rear Panel.jpg

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Rear seat position is currently still mostly under development, but there is a working Chaff and Flare panel (right lower panel) and a better weapons panel than for the pilot (left lower panel). But you have to love the minute joystick.

 

Menus

The Tornado uses a Plugin Menu system that drops down from the X-Plane menu bar (plugins) and the X-Plane Aircraft/Weight & Balance & Fuel menu on the "Ordnance" tab is to also be considered as a secondary menu page.

 

Tornado_Menu 1.jpgTornado_Menu 2.jpg

 

The drop down menu covers...

 

Smart views (on/off)...   note: if you use the standard X-Plane key save view system, you need to keep this item switched off as it badly interferes with that the way of changing your cockpit views.

 

Jump to Navigator seat; Puts you in the rear seat!

Load map; You can create and load in your own moving map with a rendering (or scan) of the map saved in a“.tga” format without compression. there are no finer details as yet on how to create this and it is noted a full tutorial is coming.

 

Tornado_Menu 8.jpgTornado_Menu 3.jpg

 

Controls; a full set of the same commands that are set out around the aircraft's cockpit, but here they are all in one place for ease of use.

 

AAR; The AAR or Air to Air Refueling is a feature with the X-Trident Tornado, we will cover it later, but there is a menu panel to control both aircraft.

 

Tornado_Menu 5.jpgTornado_Menu 4.jpg

 

Weapons; Using the cockpit weapons panel is a bit hard and a few functions are missing. So this menu panel makes it easier to set up and use.

 

Joystick debug; A guess this is used for development as it shows the joystick axis coordinates.

 

Tornado_Menu 6.jpgTornado_Menu 7.jpg

 

TACAN; This is a full list of TACAN frequencies close to the aircraft.

 

Special; shows selections for the side aircraft ladder and static elements as noted above.

 

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Flying the GR4 Tornado!

 

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You would think that the 68º wide sweep of the wings would be the best for lift on takeoff, but that isn't the case. Full out the wings create too much drag, so you don't create the required speed to takeoff by the end of even RAF Valley's (EGOV) long RWY14  2,290 metres (7,513 ft).

 

So the sweep setting required is the mid 40º, and with the full throttle setting and afterburners glowing, you move...  really move.

 

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So fast in fact that in only a short time you are way above 250knts and heading for 300kts... on the ground!

 

Tornado_Flying 4.jpg

 

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Slight pull of the stick back and your free of the ground and powering away, you feel the aircraft and it is really nice to control...  gear up.

 

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It is well worth saving a replay and then going back and watching the gear stow away. The rear gear sorts of twists and folds forwards inwards like a big killer bird does, Tornado...  Bird of Prey sorta sounds great.

 

Tornado_Flying 10.jpg

 

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Front and rear positions are visually great, but a highlight is the excellent reflections on the canopy, they create that sort of fishbowl feel of the bubble canopy, and from the rear the effect is more realistic than in the front...

 

Weapons

you have both A-A (Air to Air) and A-G (Air to Ground) weapons including Sidewinder, Mk83 (low-drag general-purpose bombs), Storm Shadow (SCALP - air-launched long range, conventionally armed, deep strike weapon), Mauser BK27 Cannon, plus counter-measure BOZ 101 (Electronic Counter Measure Pod (ECMP)) and TSPJ - Tornado Self Protection Jammer and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) system.

 

I not sure if the Tornado is set up to use the new X-Plane 10.50 weapon system functions, but if not I would expect the system to be included in the future.

 

Tornado_Weapons .jpg

 

You can use the centre armament panel, to fire the weapons, but using the menu panel is far easier.

 

Tornado_Weapons 1.jpgTornado_Weapons 2.jpg

 

You here can "arm" the weapons, SET or LOAD them, Select from either the Cannon A-A or A-G and set your target in: Alpha, Bravo or Charlie.

 

Make sure you have set the safety knob to "Live" and lift the "Late Arm" red cover to set them ready...   Then just fire away, I use a trigger button on my joystick.

 

I would like a key- pop-up on the menu items as you hide the menu panel away and then want it back, so a quick key press would save a lot of time.

 

Tornado_Weapons 3.jpgTornado_Weapons 4.jpg

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The "Storm Shadow" deep strike weapon is very impressive. A sort of small cruise missile, you arm, then fire it and it drops and ignites below the aircraft then goes away to hunt it's target or victim. Me..  I just got out of there...

 

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Bombs and Cannon are also highly effective, and all the weapons can be managed through the X-Plane Aircraft/Weight & Balance & Fuel menu on the "Ordnance" tab

 

AAR or Air to Air Refueling

One of the big features with the Tornado is the AAR or Air to Air Refueling. You can download a "Buddy" Tornado set up for AAR that is not noted at this point?  And that aircraft is loaded into your X-Plane A.I. (Aircraft & Situations - Other Aircraft).

 

Tornado_AAR .jpg

 

At this point in time in creating this review I have not actually hooked up (yes I hold my head in shame, but if not you would be not reading this review for a month's time).

 

The built in refueling boom on the Tornado is extended by the In-Flight refueling panel on the top right arm panel. The animation is excellent as it extends and you are ready for your "Buddy" to catch up. Best way to see where the "buddy" is, is on the "local map". but it does take (a lot of time to get into position or catch you up).

 

The AAP panel allows you to set (more than one) tankers from the A.I. list, then you can activate it or switch it off for normal A.I. use. You then can set the - Altitude, Heading and speed of the tanker and then "Sync" it to your Tornado. There are three different "Difficulty" challenges in "Easy", "Medium" and "Hard"

 

Tornado_AAR 1.jpgTornado_AAR 3.jpg

Tornado_AAR 2.jpgTornado_AAR 4.jpg

 

The panel is however confusing? and there is to date no instructions except for the basics of the panel's layout? Is the AP your Tornado or the Buddy? and is the sync to do what, just sync the same alt, head and speed?  to your Tornado or the buddy? 

 

I think a good feature would that the "buddy" when activated comes up and past and then holds the correct station for you to hook up, and even does a hook up for you, certainly a manual mode is required, but it gets really (really) hard to do, as when you get into the slipstream of the "buddy" your Tornado shakes quite violently, that makes it hard to do those fine adjustments required to hook up. The AAR control panel needs to be more accessible than just via the drop down menu, because you need to switch it on and off a lot...

 

The idea of controlling the "buddy" aircraft is a great one, and to a point it works. But what doesn't work is the finer control you need. I needed the tanker to go up about 50ft, but the control panel just jumps to a higher altitude, and the buddy disappeared. Speed adjustment works to a point, but not in the small numbers but jumps of 15-30knts, so the buddy is too fast or too slow. So "sync" should be sync! and the two aircraft should be locked together at the correct point to come together if you are in the correct position....  its all just too hard.

 

Tornado_AAR 6 .jpg

 

Time to do a Scott Tracy and pull those wings back like Thunderbird One and head back to RAF Valley...

 

Tornado_Flying 13.jpg  Tornado_Flying 14.jpg

 

The speed and power of this thing in is very heady at mach 1.6!  hammer time!

 

The Tornado is tricky on landing.

 

Tornado_Landing 1.jpgTornado_Landing 2.jpg

 

I haven't yet mastered the approach, but if you drop the speed, you get a very quick stall. So the approach speed margin is very small between the lowest speed at around 200knts-180knts (which is still too fast) or finding yourself falling into that nasty ground swallowing  stall...  so you tend to make your approaches too fast and then slightly stall the last part of your way to lower the aircraft to the runway.

 

I thought low speeds would be better, as you have not only the swing-wing at its most extended of 68º and with those really great main rear and leading flaps.

 

Tornado_Landing 4.jpgTornado_Landing 5.jpg

 

You arm the thrust-reversers before landing by pushing the throttles left, but X-Trident have now added a keyboard key (for the joystick) in an update at my request (They are also really hard to use manually). This allows you more control of when you need the reverse thrust as on auto setting the excellent two position spoilers come up first and then finally the clams come together, you needed more control too wind off the speed as soon as you are settled on the runway, the reversers are effective and you need that instant stopping power.

 

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Put the throttle right up and thankfully the reverse-thrust is powerful and you finally start to run off that excess speed and the aircraft will quickly slow to a taxi speed.

 

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Lighting

There is a lot of adjustable lighting in the cockpit with the instruments and with the both side panels which all have separate knobs.

 

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The overhead cockpit lighting gives a (very) slight dark red glow, I feel it should be more redder. Toned down the panel is very black and white, but works very well.

 

Rear position needed the mapping screens working correctly, but it will look really good once more attention of this area is completed.

 

Tornado_Night 4.jpgTornado_Night 3.jpg

 

HUD is excellent for use at night.

 

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Navigation lights are sets of two. One set on the wing tips and another on the engine inlets, the secondary nav lights can be dimmed or made to flash for identification (refueling). External cockpit illumination is great visually.

 

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There is a single taxi light on the front gear strut, and two landing lights are built into the the undercarriage door panels, but you can only have either the taxi or the landing lights on, but not all on together.

 

Liveries

There are six liveries and all are very well done. They consist of: AM 6th Stormo Camo (Italian) as default, 50th Stormo (Italian), P-01 D9591 (German), MarineFlieger 43-87 (German), ZA412 617 Squadron (Dambusters) RAF (British) and RSAF (Saudi).

 

Tornado_Livery_AM 6th Stormo Camo.jpgTornado_Livery_50th Stormo.jpg

Tornado_Livery_P-01 D9591.jpgTornado_Livery_MarineFlieger 43-87.jpg

Tornado_Livery_ZA412 617 Squadron RAF.jpgTornado_Livery_RSAF (Saudi).jpg

 

I found no basic RAF Squadron for this review and many others are already asking why only one RAF?, More to come I hope.

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This release from X-Trident is noted as a beta, and to a large point it is. There is still a lot of development of the aircraft still to do, it is certainly not finished and in parts it feels that way.  The basics however are great and the aircraft is more than usable, and no doubt the final release aircraft will be excellent going on X-Trident's past reputation. but the small niggles are certainly there and if you are fine with that then you will love the aircraft.

 

As an aircraft the Tornado GR4 is well...  awesome! I really hate using that word, but here it fits. It is a great machine to look at and fly, and there is a really great set of features in this package, and overall the aircraft is expertly created with simply great detailing.

 

If you really like great fighters then certainly invest in the Tornado, you won't be disappointed and I predict that in time it will be an X-Plane classic of it's category.

 

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X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

 

Yes! the Panavia Tornado by X-Trident is NOW available from the new X-Plane.Org Store here :

 

Panavia Tornado 

Price is US$38.95

If you have already purchased X-Trident's excellent AMX then X-Trident are preparing a coupon code that will give you a 4$ discount on the full price of the Tornado.

 

Features Include:

  • Pilot and navigator 3d cockpits
  • Realistic performances
  • Detailed startup sequence
  • Moving map
  • Terrain following radar
  • Radar warning
  • Long and short range guided bombs
  • Custom HUD with CCIP for gravity bombs; air and ground targets tracking
  • Weapon control panel with multi-configuration capability
  • Realistic / animated in flight refueling with the provided buddy tanker
  • Animated ejection sequence
  • Custom throttle control

 

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Installation : Download is 355.60 mb which is unzipped to your X-Plane Fighter folder at 648.90mb.

The "Buddy" Tornado needs to be downloaded, and loaded as an A.I. aircraft into the X-Plane Aircraft & Situations - Other Aircraft Menu

 

Tornado buddy set up.jpg

 

The "Buddy" must also be set as the Air Force and Navy Refuel options on the same Aircraft & Situations Menu.

Documentation : Tornado for X-Plane 10 - quick start v04 (not completed) and Startup and take off checklist.

 

Requirements :

X-Plane 10.50+ (any edition) - running in 64bit mode 
Windows, MAC or Linux - 64 bit Operating System required
4Gb RAM - 1Gb VRAM Minimum. 2Gb VRAM Recommended
Current version: 2.0 (last updated September 22 2016)

______________________________________________________________________

 

X-Trident - Support forum for the Panavia Tornado

 
______________________________________________________________________
 

Review by Stephen Dutton

5th October 2016

Copyright©2016: X-Plane Reviews

 

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 10 Global v10.50

Addons: Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Plugins:  Headshake by SimCoders (free)

 

Scenery or Aircraft

- EGOV - RAF Valley for X-Plane v10 by rcmarple (X-Plane.Org) - Free

 

Logo Header X-PlaneReviews 200px.jpg

 

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Guest Frankie Kam   
Guest Frankie Kam

Now that's what I call a world-class review. Thank you for the detailed text and generous sprinkling of images. X-Trident Torando Version 1.0, here we come!

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56 minutes ago, Guest sohearn said:

T/O configuration is Wings Forward, Flaps Mid.

 

Yes tried that configuration, and it does work...  I thought any flap would create too much drag, but apparently not. SD

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Guest sohearn   
Guest sohearn
10 hours ago, Stephen said:

 

Yes tried that configuration, and it does work...  I thought any flap would create too much drag, but apparently not. SD

 

Understood. It seems to be a lot of flap compared to say other aircraft like the Tomcat and Hornet. I suspect that the difference however is that the Tornado's flaps are slotted so the airflow remains attached and good lift is generated. Taking off in AB overcomes drag and weight.

 

BTW, Tomcat's do not normally use AB when operating from runways unless loaded (unusual for a carrier aircraft), F-16s use AB when their calculated take off run would otherwise exceed half the runway length, Hornets always use the burner. Using AB is why the first stop is often mating up with a tanker.

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