Reviews Tornado F3 In Focus

Review in JETS Magazine

Review in Military Modelling Magazine by Robin Buckland

Title: Tornado F3 in Focus... 
Author: David Gledhill
Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-307-7

...a Navigator's Eye on Britain's Last Interceptor

For those interested in fast jets then I think you will enjoy this one. The author was a navigator in the F3 and clearly had a respect for the aircraft despite it having a poor reputation.  Developed from the European Muti-Role Combat Aircraft, the ADV (Air Defense Variant) was the fighter interceptor variant of what was eventually named the Tornado.  They entered service in the mid 1980's and served on until they were retired from frontline service in 2001.  As someone interested in military aircraft from an early age, I can remember the F2 entering service, and which was soon subject to upgrades that gave us the F3.  It didn't get off to a good start when the Foxhunter radar intended for it was not ready, so the first deliveries had concrete ballast in the nose rather than the radar!  Like many things, if a new product starts out with a poor reputation, it can never really shake that off, no matter what you do to it.

The story of the F3 was one beset with issues such as the radar but also it was coming into service just as the unexpected happened and the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the old Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact effectively collapsed and we had the end of the Cold War.  The result was that the threat for which we needed an interceptor was virtually gone overnight and the subsequent drive to reduce defense spending saw the retirement or reduction of a number of aircraft types.

The book is split into 12 chapters, and the titles of each one give a good idea of the service life of the F3.  It starts off with background and Developing the Tornado F3; Operating the Tornado F3; The Arrival of the Tornado F2 on no 229 Operational Conversion Unit: The Foxhunter Radar saga: Saluting the Queen: Exercises Swift Sword, Radlett and Operation Buhl: The First Gulf War: The Operational Conversion Unit: Air Displays: The Tornado F3 on Operations: Life as an MOD Desk Officer: and to round it off, The Final Operational Standard.

The author spent a lot of time with the Tornado F3, he went on to be Executive Officer of the OCU and was also in command of  1435 Flight based in the Falkland Islands.  He gives us a well balanced view of the F3, noting the problems it had but also the advantages, with a number of improvements it provided over alternative aircraft, including the Phantom which he had flown in previously.  Well illustrated throughout, and including a section of colour photos in the centre section (the remainder are in black and white) he not only explains the history of the F3 but gives a number of detailed descriptions such as in the way the pilot and navigator worked together in the cockpit and of the detailed take-off procedures.  One of the small points which struck me was mention of the processing power of the computer in the cockpit, which even in te final most updated version was only a 128Kb, yes, Kilobyte, machine.  Compared to the powerful computers of today that seems ridiculously small, but in those days a vital part of our most modern interceptor.

So many stories, such as actually sitting in a Soviet Tu-95 Bear at RIAT at Fairford (I well remember seeing it there myself, parked alongside a B-52, while I was soaked through in the pouring rain) after years of thinking of them as an intruder to intercept.  The end of the Cold War meant a number of changes we all had to get used to.  An interesting look at the detail of the story of a fighter that was perhaps not given the credit it deserved, even if it wasn't ideal.  Well worth reading.

List Price in the UK is £25.00.

5.0 out of 5 stars5 Stars The Definitive Historical Account of the Tornado ADV?

No one could be better placed to write an account of the Tornado F3's controversial and troubled history than David Gledhill. He was closely involved with the aircraft from it's introduction to service and throughout much of its 25 years in operational service and flew many hours in the aircraft.. Unlike many previous attempts to document the Tornado F3's development, this book gives a comprehensive and truthful account of the political decisions and the overly bureaucratic and inflexible procurement system that lead to the RAF being handed a front-line aircraft that was not fit for purpose. It took a great deal of effort and money to recover the situation and, although these problems persisted, it was not until much later in its service life that the aircraft could boast a fighting capability that it should have had from the outset.

In between the covers there is a good mix of technical information, personal accounts and photographs and although it is not all happy reading, I applaud David Gledhill for telling it how it was 'warts and all'! He has produced another great piece of work and one that will surely be seen as a definitive historical account of the Tornado Air Defence Variant.

By Glider 19X on


5.0 out of 5 starsBrillaint Piece of Work!

Another brilliant book from a great author ! This book really stands out from the 'facts and figures' type of a work usually found on aircraft types. This one is a personal account of the authors time with the interceptor variant of the Tornado. A very insightful read that doesn't lose the reader in techno babble and gives a great account of what goes on in bringing a jet into service and the updates to keep said aircraft at the cutting edge of performance. The F3 was a much maligned jet that suffered from bad press and the author has cleared up many misconceptions that still go around till this day. A great read from beginning to end and well illustrated which is great to see in a book of this genre , highly recommended !

By Simon Jakubowski on

5.0 out of 5 starsAn Eye Opener

Having read Dave Gledhill's excellent books, Phantom in Focus and Fighters Over The Falklands (which I wholeheartedly recommend), I had to get a copy of Tornado F3 in Focus. As a self confessed Phantom Phanatic, the Tornado F3 is not high on my list of favourite aircraft. I am one of the 'detractors' that Dave Gledhill mentions in the book, only knowing the F3 from that which was published in the popular press at the time.
The problems that the Tornado F3 suffered, especially with the radar, gave me the impression of a 'basket case' aircraft. Through Dave Gledhill's excellent writing, this impression has been somewhat changed. The author's close involvement with the development of the F3's systems, both as a Navigator and Staff Officer, give the inside look at the political and practical problems involved with modifying a frontline fighter.
The Tornado F3 was a very complicated piece of equipment so there are some, very necessary, technical sections of the book, to give the required background knowledge needed to understand why development was required (you always have to do some ground school before you can go flying!). Nothing is too heavy going though and there are plenty 'flying tales' to keep the book flowing along nicely. As a result, you find yourself willing this underdog aircraft to succeed.
I am still not a great fan of the Tornado F3, but at least I have a better understanding of the problems that it faced and that, by the end of it's career, it was a very capable aircraft. If you 'think' you know the story of the Tornado F3, I suggest you read this book. It may just surprise you.

By Stuart Forth on

5.0 out of 5 starsI Have Read and Ejoyed David Gledhill's Earlier Book............

I have read and enjoyed David Gledhill's earlier book "Phantom in Focus" so was looking forward to this one and have not been disappointed. The author is well qualified to write about this controversial fighter. He served as an navigator instructor with the F3 Operational Conversion Unit at Coningsby, commanded No.1435 Flight in the Falklands and spent two periods at the Ministry of Defence where he was closely involved with F3 affairs. This gives the book a nice balance between technical background and personal experience.
Early chapters deal with the development of the F3, operational aspects and the Foxhunter radar saga. The latter chapter is heavy stuff, but Gledhill describes the problems well, backed up by useful illustrations. On a more personal note, the author describes his time with the OCU, which included participation in the Queen's birthday flypast and various overseas exercises, and some display flying. Although the F3 was a safe aircraft, he describes a horrifying incident which happened to two colleagues when the manual separation handle was pulled inadvertently, resulting in the loss of the canopy, the release of the pilot's harness and the deployment of his drogue chute which almost sucked him from the cockpit. Thankfully, the aircraft was a twin-stick version, and the navigator, showing commendable skill, was able to land safely. His time with No.1435 Flight is touched on only briefly as it is the subject of his book "Fighters over the Falklands". Mercifully, Gledhill avoids the jokey tales of high-jinks in the Mess, which marr some pilots' reminiscences.
One might expect the chapters describing his time at the MoD to be less interesting, but in fact they are full of fascinating stuff. During the first Gulf War, he was charged with fitting the F3 with defensive aids. Flare and chaff dispensers were developed in short order, but not a radar jammer. The latter omission led to the development of the towed radar decoy with which he was involved during his second stint at the MoD. Other items covered in this chapter include JTIDS, night vision goggles, the " Airwork Saga", the Italian lease of F3s, a strange attempt to replace the F3 with hand-me-down F-16As, the integration of AMRAAM and ASRAAM missiles and the murky saga of the EF3 defence suppression version.
David Gledhill writes clearly about some complex subjects, and the text is supported by photographs and drawings; strangely, there is no diagram of the pilot's main panel, although there is a key for it in the appendix (clearly a publisher's error).
The Tornado F3 could never be described as a classic aircraft. As the author says in a final chapter, it's difficult to turn a bomber into a fighter. It lacked maneuverability, and its poor high altitude performance was a long-standing problem (which at one time led to a proposal to fit EJ200 engines). On the other hand, it was generally liked by its crews, had good low level performance, had an enviable safety record and in its final incarnation (improved radar, JTIDS, AMRAAM and ASRAAM) was an first-rate interceptor.
David Gledhill has written an excellent overview of this unfairly maligned aircraft.

5.0 out of 5 stars - Required reading - especially for those tasked with defence procurement!

Another terrific book from Mr Gledhill. I was given his Fighters Over the Falklands as an xmas pressie and enjoyed that. You could say this is a companion piece because the ADV was the successor to the F4 as a defender of those islands. However, while mentioned this adventure is left to the reader's exploration of the Falklands book. Just as well because there is a great deal to cover with what was too often quite a controversial RAF aircraft.
Though I have long been a fan of this Tornado variant and tried to keep up with it in the magazines etc (pre-Internet) as well as enjoying seeing the machine aloft at airshows, this book shows me how little I really knew of its development and service. Via many photos and graphics we are led through the evolution and operation of what could be said to be the RAF's first digital jet. I think that this is the key point with the F2/F3, it happened to come along just as everything was changing in fighter technology. This was a mixed blessing for those who operated and services these beasts. Suffice to say we learn of the limitations in the cockpit and out before the F3 became the superb fighter it was intended to be. A quarter of a century it evolved through all the stages of radar, comms, weapons and defences - not to mention navigational equipment! Thanks to diligent air and groundcrew it was able to deliver every time it was tasked though as Mr Gledhill relates, this was sometimes a too close run thing!
All round an excellent account of one of the key fighting aircraft of the 20th and 21st centuries that I shall turn to again I have little doubt. In fact I think it should be required reading for all those tasked with procurement of defence equipment! 

By Amazon Customer

5.0 out of 5 starsWritten by someone who knows what he is writing about

How good it is to read a book written by someone who knows what he is writing about. Dave's long experience as a navigator in the Royal Air Force, having flown both the Phantom FGR2 and Tornado F3 over Germany, Britain and the Falklands, is reflected in how he covers the subject in this book. He addresses many of the earlier shortcomings in the Tornado F3 and then how, driven by wartime needs, these shortcomings were overcome and the Tornado F3 really achieved a better capability by the second half of its career. It is also interesting to read how in peacetime it is so difficult, costly and hard to get much needed modifications and upgrades in an aircraft, whereas in wartime contractors and government bureaucrats may cut through the red tape so easily. It left me wondering why this can not be done everyday, saving taxpayers' money? All in all, a most recommended book to read! Well done once again, Dave!

By Rudnei Da Cunha on

5.0 out of 5 starsThe Navigator's Tale Tornado F3

A much deeper read than the average pilot's book ! It gives much insight into some of the bizarre decisions taken by people military, and political regarding our defences. Explanations into the complexity of fighting a modern air battle with radar,missiles, and decoys in a high speed, high "g" environment against a well equipped enemy makes one wonder whether anyone will ever see an enemy if it ever comes to pass. An absorbing book with the occasional amusing anecdote, not for a casual read if you want to get the best out of it.

By Blue Streak on

4 Star A Very Informative Book

A very informative book. The information & technical data I found extremely interesting. It does show that governments do not take a lot of notice of the opinions of the people that really know the true situation as to what is required to operate these machines. It makes me wonder at times who pulls the strings of government & are they really concerned with the safety of the country. Who in their right mind would send an aircraft to protect the country with important parts not fitted ( if actually produced ) & no servicing instructions in place. Also to much inter service arguments.

By Robert on

5 Star Great Book

Bought it because i had followed the Tornado F3 whilst it was in service but only knew so much about its development (or not). I wasn't expecting so much information and couldn't put it down. Looking for other books by Dave Gledhill. Didn't expect it to be so good.
By S Newton on Amazon

4 Star A Good Read

As an engineer closely connected with the F3, I found this an enjoyable read, with lots of information from the users' point of view. Pity that we didn't have this as a manual when developing the equipment back in the 1970s.
By M Stewart on Amazon

I really enjoyed your Book Tornado F3 In Focus....

"Excellent reading in all senses. First hand personal knowledge of the aircraft, gifted technical insight and explanatory detailing for all to understand. The last page came too quickly, Congratulations and thank you to David Gledhill.

For those not conversant with the Tornado F3  It would advantageous to view the video "Tornado F3" (DeeGee Media) prior to reading the book".


By Gil Ben Ari

3 Stars A Good Buy

A good buy if you are technically minded, Ex RAF engine fitter I found myself out of my comfort zone on the technical side, However very informative for those who have the depth of knowledge

By Peter Randell on