The Panavia Tornado – Review by Mark Barnes for War History Online

Pen & Sword produced some genuinely lovely aviation photo archive books during 2015 and I still have a few to tell you about that appeared towards the end of the year.  Both come from authors who came up with gems I would have included in a ‘best of’ for the year had I got round to writing one.  The effect of those books was to make me hit the ‘more please’ button, and having seen these latest titles, my opinion has not changed.

Michael Leek is back with his look at the Panavia Tornado, a big lump of jet given the snappy Multi-Role Combat Aircraft tag by European defence planners eager to get plenty of bang for their marks, pounds and lira.  The Tornado has proven to be a solid package for all the roles planned for it, so those men back in the 1970s who foresaw tightened budgets and off-piste wars away from the German plain got things just about right. The Tornado remains busy over Iraq and Syria today just as it was over the same region during two Gulf Wars and further west over Libya.

The politics of those conflicts is not my beeswax, the issue here is the aircraft itself. I had the pleasure of attending a talk given by former RAF navigator John Nichol who had the grim distinction of being one of those faces we saw on TV during the 1991 Gulf War when he was shot down over Iraq. Some of his comments about operating the aircraft seem a little at odds with the look of the things in Mr Leek’s book, but it was ever thus that even the sexiest looking kit could and would be fickle. Tornados in various guises will remain in service with British, German, Italian and Saudi forces into the next decade.

Mr Leek’s latest book is another beautifully prepared photo exposition of jets thundering about over the Lake District and through the Machloop in addition to views from places near and far. The author looks at the type in service with all the previously mentioned countries, but the lion’s share are from the United Kingdom. Commenting on the standard of photography is utterly pointless. This book is stunning.  I saw something on Facebook about the Machloop earlier this week and it gives me food for thought about a trip to Wales to see if things for myself.  If a trip there is a geographical impossibility for you, then this book may well be enough to sate your appetite for big noisy jets in confined airspace. But there is so much more to this book. Brilliant.


A Photographic Tribute
By Michael Leek
Pen & Sword Aviation
ISBN: 978 1 78159 297 7

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.