Germany has deployed four Tornado fighter bombers to South Africa in an exercise named Two Oceans. The Tornados involved belong to Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 33 at Buechel airbase and are of the latest ASSTA 3.0 (Avionics System Software Tornado Ada) variant, which means the jets are capable of using laser-targeted Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
The four Tornados along with 150 personnel operate from Overberg airbase in the Cape province of South Africa. Overberg is home to the South African Air Force’s Test Flight Development Centre (TFDC). Over nearby ranges, Tornado crews will test their JDAM-capability against moving ground targets, among other things.
The Tornado has been in German service since 1980, but the number of jets has been greatly reduced over the last two decades, with the Eurofighter Typhoon acting as replacement. Two wings continue to operate the Tornado though, and could very well do so for up to 15 more years. And that’s unlike the British, who will dispose of their remaining Tornado jets in 2019.
The Germany government is planning to send four NH90s medium transport helicopters and four Tiger light attack helicopter to Mali. In the African country, the helos will be used for the UN’s MINUSMA peace keeping mission. They will replace Dutch CH-47D Chinook and AH-64D Apache helicopters.
If parliament in Berlin approves the proposal, the helicopters will head for Mali in the first half of this year. The NH90s will be used for transport tasks, including the evacuation of wounded personnel. The Tigers will be there to provide securty. Both the NH90 and Tiger were used in Afghanistan before by the Germans, who encountered difficulties in operating the NH90 in ‘hot and high’ conditions.
Apart from Afghanistan, the Tiger attack helicopter also saw earlier use in Libya, Somalia and Mali.
Germany is still in the process of working towards full strength with its Tornado aircraft over Syria. Four more Tornado jets left Germany since Monday 4 January for the Turkish airbase of Incirlik. The German Bundeswehr is expecting to reach full strength and mission capability mid-January.
Two Tornados took off from Schleswig-Jagel airbase in northern Germany on Monday and headed south. Two additional Tornados left Büchel airbase on Tuesday and also fly to Incirlik. Another two will fly to Turkey next week,
So far, the jet In Incirlik have only been used for orientation flights in Turkish airspace. Recce flights over Syria will start as soon as full strength is reached, using the Tornado’s infrared and optical image equipment.
Germany is seeking to convert a used Airbus A319 corporate jet into an Open Skies aircraft, according to a tender issued this week. The jet should be ready in 2018 at a total cost of 60 million EUR and will operate alongside Germany’s fleet of A319 VIP aircraft and probably be based in Cologne.
The German Bundeswehr for years and years did not have the appropriate aircraft for fulfilling the 1992 Open Skies treaty and was forced to hire this capability elsewhere. The fact that Germany now wants its own capability is no surprise given the current international turmoil and the recent behaviour of Russia on the international stage in particular.
Until 1997, the German Air Force did have an aircraft suited for the Open Skies mission, being a former East German Air Force Tupolev Tu-154. This aircraft was lost however on 13 September 1997 when it collided at altitude with a US Air Force C-141 Starlifter off the coast of Namibia.
Airbus delivered a significant number of A400M military transport aircraft to costumers in December, bringing to an end a year marked by the fatal crash of an A400M in Seville on 9 May. The program seems to have overcome the tragedy however.
In December, Germany received both its second and third A400M, while France took delivery of its eight aircraft. Also, Turkey and Malaysia got their hands on their third and second aircraft respectively. The latter was handed over to the Royal Malaysian Air Force in Seville on Wednesday 23 December and will head East soon.
The year 2015 saw four deliveries to the Royal Air Force (RAF), who declared the A400M Atlas C1 ‘ready for worldwide tasks’ last September. Meanwhile, Airbus reports it is making progress in assembling the first aircraft for Spain.