During the late 1960's a number of countries were looking at replacing their existing military aircraft fleets. Many of these countries had or were considering variable geometry as a means of making an aircraft perform well throughout a wider flight envelope. Variable geometry allows the pilot and/or fly by wire system to adapt the aircraft wing shape to the optimal settings dependant on its height, speed and load. The Tornado takes this one step further and incorporates swivelling weapons pylons that always ensure the stores are parallel to the airframe and therefore the airflow, thus minimising drag.
Britain and France joined forces on a variable geometry aircraft project, called the AFVG. (Anglo French Variable Geometry). France was already in the process of developing a variable geometry airframe of its own. In 1968, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, and Canada formed a working group to look at replacements for the F104. The outcome of this project was initially called the MRA or Multi Role Aircraft, later changed to the MRCA, Multi Role Combat Aircraft. Britain later joined this group on the strength of its variable geometry design.
The MRCA was initially viewed as two different aircraft, a single seat F104G replacement for Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada, and as a two seat strike aircraft for Britain and Germany.
In July 1968 a memorandum of understanding was signed by Germany, Italy and Britain covering the proposals for the MRCA. Canada and Belgium pulled out the following year. Holland later pulled out over technical concerns with the MRCA.
The initial Tornado design was for a deep penetration all weather bomber, known as the IDS (Interdictor Strike). This aircraft is designed to fly at extremely low level at high speed in almost any weather. At low level the Tornado excels, the large all moving tailerons and fin provide the necessary damping action to keep the ride relatively smooth and on track.
2× Turbo-Union RB199-34R Mk. 101 turbofan at 8,475 lbf or 2× Turbo-Union RB199-34R Mk. 103 turbofan at 8,650 lbf