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The first Italian Tornado was delivered on 25 September 1981.

The most extensive modification from the base Tornado design was the Tornado ADV, which was stretched and armed with long range anti-aircraft missiles to serve in the interceptor role.

The Tornado operators have chosen to undertake various life extension and upgrade programmes to keep their Tornado fleets as viable frontline aircraft for the foreseeable future.

France had made a favourable offer to Belgium on the Dassault Mirage 5, which created doubt as to whether the MRCA would be worthwhile from Belgium's operational perspective.

The project's aim was to produce an aircraft capable of undertaking missions in the tactical strike, reconnaissance, air defence, and maritime roles; thus allowing the MRCA to replace several different aircraft then in use by the partner nations.

At the conclusion of the project definition phase in May 1970, the concepts were reduced to two designs; a single seat Panavia 100 which West Germany initially preferred, and the twin-seat Panavia 200 which the RAF preferred (this would become the Tornado).

In September 1971, the three governments signed an Intention to Proceed (ITP) document, at which point the aircraft was intended solely for the low-level strike mission, where it was viewed as a viable threat to Soviet defences in that role.

Due to its multirole design, it was able to replace several different fleets of aircraft in the adopting air forces.

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) became the only export operator of the Tornado in addition to the three original partner nations.

Testing revealed that a nose-wheel steering augmentation system, connecting with the yaw damper, was necessary to counteract the destabilising effect produced by deploying the thrust reverser during landing rollouts.

During the type's development, aircraft designers of the era were beginning to incorporate features such as more sophisticated stability augmentation systems and autopilots.

The Tornado was developed and built by Panavia Aircraft Gmb H, a tri-national consortium consisting of British Aerospace (previously British Aircraft Corporation), MBB of West Germany, and Aeritalia of Italy.