LATEST UPDATE 5 OCTOBER 2014 (CORRECTION TORNADOS IN SERVICE) | With the current availability disaster of the German Air Force new Eurofighter EF2000s, with often less than a dozen fully combat ready and some grounded for literally years in a row, the Luftwaffe decided to plan for the future with an aging lady developed during the heights of the Cold War: beware of the Panavia Tornado.
While the Royal Air Force is planning to decommission its last Tornado in 2019, the air forces of Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia aim for 2025 for their machines. But the Luftwaffe is already looking beyond that time frame, possibly fearing that the new Eurofighters won’t make a credible stand for years to come due to the lack of funds and technical issues.
Officially the Luftwaffe swept-wing aircraft are of the types interdictor strike (IDS) and Electronic Counter Measures (ECM). But with the lack of other available air assets after the retirement of the Vietnam era F-4 Phantom II, the aircraft that was meant to bomb and fly low might in stead have to go for the high ground with air-to-air missiles to protect Germany’s airspace against a much more active Russian bear than a decade ago, while retaining its active attack status. That means a lot of work for the aircraft that just turned 40 (SEE OUR SPECIAL).
Germany’s future plans are great for Airbus Military, inaugurating its new Tornado overhaul and maintenance facility at Ingolstadt-Manching Airbase this Spring. There 85 of the Luftwaffe’s officially 89 old ladies will be upgraded to the new ASSTA-3.1 standard, with a max. capacity of servicing a total of 20 aircraft at a time. The servicing is much needed, at the end of September only 36 Tornados were fully combat ready.
The new standard will give the Tornado navigator, sitting in the back, three multifunctional colour displays connected to the Link-16 (MIDS) information sharing protocol. With Link-16 aircraft can share each others stuff, including AWACS radar images to fighter jets.
Moreover ASSTA-3.1 will improve the self-defense suite, communications, a modern VHF/UHF radio (Saturn) and a digital video and data recorder. The upgrade will also see the addition of Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (LJDAM), to give the Tornado better precision-guided weaponry.
While the Luftwaffe still hopes to have newer aircraft (read: the Eurofighter EF2000) fully available in 2025, it has quietly started planning to keep at least one or two squadrons of Tornados on strength way beyond that date. One almost starts to wonder if it isn’t time for Berlin to lease a bunch of second-hand but much newer and more economic American-made Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds or easy-to-maintain-easy-to-fly SAAB JAS 39 Gripens.
© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger