The update to GR.4 standard improved capabilities in the medium-altitude role in part based on lessons learned from the GR.1's performance in the 1991 Gulf War. Panavia upgraded 142 Tornado GR.1s to GR.4 standard, beginning in 1996 and finishing in 2003.

The aircraft is equipped with Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) and is Night Vision Goggle (NVG) compatible, resulting in an all-weather night capability as well as making it an impressive platform for mounting passive night electro-optical operations. For navigation purposes, the Tornado is equipped with an integrated Global Positioning Inertial Navigation System (GPINS) and also with a Laser Ranger and Marked Target Seeker (LRMTS), that can be used to locate targets designated on the ground or can provide accurate range information to ground targets. 

The GR.4 typically carries up to a maximum of 5 Paveway IV smart weapons or 2 Storm Shadow cruise missiles but can be configured with various weapons, targeting pods and reconnaissance pods simultaneously including the Dual Mode Seeker (DMS) Brimstone, ALARM Mk2 missile, Litening III and the Reconnaissance Airborne Pod Tornado (RAPTOR). The aircraft is also equipped with one integral 27mm Mauser cannon capable of firing 1700 rounds per minute. In addition the Tornado GR.4 Force trains and maintains a capability with legacy weapons such as 1000lb dumb weapons, Paveway II and III and the AIM 9L.

The Tornado GR.4A is also a world leader in the specialised field of all-weather, day and night tactical reconnaissance. The RAPTOR pod is an advanced reconnaissance sensor and greatly increases the effectiveness of the aircraft in the reconnaissance role. Its introduction into service gave the GR.4A the ability to transmit real-time, Long Range Oblique Photography (LOROP) to commanders or to view this in cockpit during a mission. The stand-off range of the sensors also allows the aircraft to remain outside heavily defended areas, thus minimizing the aircraft’s exposure to enemy air-defence systems. Additional capability in the Non-Traditional Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (NTISR) role is provided by the Litening III Laser designator pod and the use of the ROVER data link for providing tactical operators with real time Full Motion Video (FMV) in the battle space.

The self-protection capability of the GR.4 has recently been upgraded by the integration of the state of the art ASRAAM short range air to air missile. Infra-Red (IR) and Radio Frequency (RF) countermeasures are provided by a BOZ-107 pod on the right wing to dispense chaff and flares and a Sky Shadow-2 electronic countermeasures pod on the left wing.

As the RAF Tornados approached their retirement in March 2019, the UK ceased operations with all Tornado aircraft in the RAF.