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.
German Tornados are known to fly to the stars (and beyond?) from Holloman Air Force Base in the New Mexican desert, but the jets from Taktischen Luftwaffengeschwader 33 (Tactical Air Force Wing 33) find themselves in a total different spot these days: training area Overberg, located about 125 miles (200 km) southwest of Cape Town in South Africa.
Four of TaktLwG 33 swept-wing interdictor/strike aircraft, normally based at Büchel in Germany, are just a few minutes flying from the southernmost tip of the African continent, Cape Agulhas. It took them three days to get there, with stop-overs at Gando Airbase (Gran Canaria, Spain) and Royal Air Force Station Ascension in the Southern Atlantic. US Air Force tankers provided the necessary fuel in mid-air, while most of the 120 active, reserve and civilian personnel of TaktLwG 33 went south in a Luftwaffe Airbus. Materiel including ammo arrived per ship and rented civilian Antonov AN-124 Ruslan.
One of the highlights was the live-firing of a Taurus cruise missile, which hit its target after 20 minutes after a Luftwaffe Tornado released it in flight, according to the GAF’s press department. The South African training areas have become fairly popular. It was the third time already, and in 2017 the Luftwaffe will do it again.