I got to attend a briefing by the RAF Tornado jocks when I was at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. They breifed their aircraft to a room full of intel types (like me)...and some Eagle and Viper drivers.Originally Posted by Grundy
They literally had almost nothing good to say about their aircraft, and this was in 2000! They knew they couldn't fight like the F-15s, and they couldn't bomb like the F-16s. They spoke about what altitude the 'Nade was happiest at, but sadly, at medium-low altitudes...it was out-classed by everything but the oldest Soviet-era hardware. They talked about survivability...and they got purty somber. They spoke about ease of maintainence, and had to admit it had a sortie rate on the low end of the NATO scale. Range, max gross payload, time-to-climb, manouverability...they were talking to a room full of guys that could shoot 'em down by the bushel, and they knew it.
They had TWO items of praise: two-man crew (which they saw as an advantage; the one-holer jocks in the crowd weren't so sure that it WAS an advantage), and they liked their ordnance suite. The runway cratering munitions, cluster bombs and their gun and its computer. (Keep in mind, these are ALL 'knife fight in a phone booth'-type weapons, not stand-off, although the Tornado DOES have a modest 'from afar' capability.) The radar missiles are so-so (even back then; they're not even competitive now), but they like their 'dogfight' missile.
So, it's day has most definitely passed, and its service life is being kept on its feet by an unwillingness to spend for its replacement.