RAF F-35Bs to Replace the Tornado GR4 in the Interdiction Role

///RAF F-35Bs to Replace the Tornado GR4 in the Interdiction Role

By Bijan Razzaghi
The RAF is retiring the last of its Tornado IDS GR4s this year after 35 years of service. The aircraft replacing them is the F-35B Lightning II, while the Tornado ADV F-3 was replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon in 2011. The F-35B can continue to provide the capabilities previously provided by the Tornado IDS while adding new capabilities that the RAF previously didn’t have.
The F-35B gives the RAF a stealth strike capability that the force did not have before. F-35Bs can perform Air Interdiction while remaining undetected. The F-35B can deploy two 1000lb GPS guided JDAMs or four 250lb SDBs. The aircraft can also cary two AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-132 ASSRAM air to air missiles in this configuration. This configuration is ideal for A2/AD environments.
For operations in undenied airspace the F-35B can cary up to 18,000 lbs or ordnance. This is just 1000 lbs less than the Tornado IDSs payload. Using external pylons F-35Bs can deploy Pave-way series Laser guided bombs, and JDAM series GPS guided bombs, Brimstone missiles can also be carried on these external pylons. The F-35Bs range of 1200 without external fuel tanks is another improvement over the Tornado IDS.
F-35Bs also offer a VTOL capability something the RAF previously didn’t have when they retired the Harrier GR-9 in 2009. The F-35Bs sensor fusion and HMDS allow for better situational awareness while operating in threat environments.
The RAF’s F-35Bs are set to be combat ready by end of this year, while the Royal Navy’s F-35s wont be until 2020.