The Tornado GR.1A is a modified GR.1, it is modified to house a number of reconnaissance sub systems.
The GR.1A fleet is made up of 16 GR.1 conversions and 14 new build GR.1As.
There are a few visual cues to differentiate a GR.1A from a GR1. The most obvious are the panels on either side of the forward fuselage and a small fairing beneath the cockpit floor. A further difference is that the GR.1A has no cannon, they have been removed to allow more equipment space for the reconnaissance package.
ZA402 was the development aircraft for the GR.1A which led to the production of 30 airframes, although ZA394, ZA397,ZG708,ZG710 & ZG725 have been lost.
The GR.1A airframes are being brought up to GR.4A standard in line with their sister aircraft as part of the GR.4 upgrade program. Check the database for more information on the progress of the upgrade program.
The GR.1A airframes are as follows,
The development of the GR.1A was an engineering and design masterpiece. It encompassed entirely new technologies for its role that would return exceptional results when released to service. One of the major difficulties was ensuring all the systems modules would fit the space available within the fuselage.
The two 27mm cannon were removed from the fuselage to give more space for the recording system & sensors.
Airframe BS069/ZA402 was delivered to British Aerospace Warton in Lancashire to be the development airframe during the summer of 1984. The airframe was then stripped of unnecessary items of equipment, modified and then rebuilt. This process took just over a year to complete with the modified airframe taking to the air once again in the summer of 1985.
The Reconnaissance Package or TIRRS
The reconnaissance system comprises of three main components, the sensor package, the recorders and the additional controls added to the cockpit.
The sensor package is built around a Vinten 4000 Infra red line scanner. This is mounted beneath the cockpit floor within a small fairing. The scanner has a viewable arc of about 180o thus enabling it see 'horizon to horizon'. There are two further scanners attached to the system and these are located on either side of the forward fuselage, identified by a colored panel on either side of the fuselage. These two side looking Infra red scanners are used to enhance the detail recorded by the main scanner and they only operate within a small number of degrees of the horizon. The sensors are stabilised to take into account any movement of the aircraft.
The images received by the Infra red scanners are processed and recorded onto a VHS sized cassette although there are other modifications to the package to ensure a high fidelity image. The system has six recorders which are utilised as follows, 1 - Infra red line scanner, primary; 2 - Left side scanner, primary; 3 - Right side scanner, primary; 4 - Editing and secondary for recorders 1 to 3; 5 - Left side scanner, secondary; 6 - Editing and Right side scanner, secondary.
Another major advantage of this system is that it does not use traditional wet film technology thereby reducing the amount of time it takes to get at the data. The system also allows an amount of editing to take place within the cockpit during the return mission leg.
The GR.1/4A is optimised to operate at low level, therefore a requirement also existed for the ability to collect photographic data from medium to high level. To achieve this a podded system is also available, this contains a Vinten produced camera system. This system uses traditional wet film and is comprised of two cameras, one with a 450mm lens and a panoramic camera with a 76mm lens.