The Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado GR.4 fleet will soon not be able to make it on its own. UK sources now confirm the British military leadership has now requested the German and Italian Air Forces to stand by for delivering spare parts to keep the fighter-bombers of 12 Squadron flying.
The Luftwaffe, Aeronautica Militare and the RAF have long-standing deal to borrow from another when necessary, going back to the Cold War days of NATO when standardisation of NATO’s air combat fleet was done in order to increase the survivability in case of war with Russia. Several nations flew the Tornado, other the F-16, with the exchange of spare parts between the various air forces as a solution to meet operational demands.
The unit has currently eight aircraft assigned to air strikes against the so-called Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, but with the Tornado fleet planned to retire more than a year ago the RAF reportedly has only a limited amount of spare parts left. London recently decided to keep the Tornadoes until at least 2017 – which may have to be extended until 2020 – in order to provide the nation with a strike force that no aircraft can yet provide.
Designed as an air-defence fighter the Eurofighter Typhoon is destined to pick up the role of air-to-ground attack asset, as well as the future Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. But the Typhoon isn’t ready for that role yet, and the first British stealthy F-35 unit will have initial operational capability in 2021 or even later.
Although the exchange of spare parts has happened before between NATO and other nations, the RAF leadership is said to be somewhat troubled by the operational goals set by the government in London, the increasing military threat of Russia and the scale back of its assets on financial grounds.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Back in October 1995, RAF Tornados of number 12 squadron paid a visit to Volkel airbase, the Netherlands. One of them is seen here while on finals for RWY24L. (Image © Elmer van Hest)