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Monday, February 16, 1998 Published at 16:53 GMT

Special Report

Tornado - Britain's multi-task bomber
image: [ The RAF has abandoned low-level missions. ]
The RAF has abandoned low-level missions.

The Tornado is Britain's main strike aircraft in this conflict.

VIDEO: British Tornados taking off for action in 1991
Eight were sent out to be stationed in Kuwait. There are a further 12 in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but both these countries will not allow their airfields to be used to launch attacks on Iraq.

In 1991 the British aircraft were involved in some of the most dangerous missions, flying low over enemy territory to bomb runways.

The tactics, much criticised after the war, resulted in the loss of six planes. This time the Tornado will only bomb targets from a height of 20,000 feet, beyond the range of surface-to-air missiles.

The Tornado is armed with the latest laser-guided bombs. Its missions are planned at the UK's imagery-analysis centre at RAF Brampton. Analysts there pore over pictures taken by satellites and reconnaissance aircraft to pick out the best targets.

  • The Tornado first flew with the RAF in 1974. A number of different versions have been built. The one in Kuwait is the Tornado GR1.

  • It can carry a variety of weapons slung below its variable sweep wings. These include cluster and laser-guided bombs, air-to-ground missiles and the JP233, which delivers a cluster of small bombs to disable runways.

  • To defend itself, the Tornado has Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, electronic counter measure pods, and chaff and flare dispensers. It also has two internally mounted cannons.

  • It is more than 54 feet in length, and has a maximum wing span of 45 feet. The Tornado can fly in excess of Mach 2.

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