Tag Archives: Tornado

Germany ends Tornado training in US in 2019

Germany will disband its Tornado training unit at Holloman Air Force Base in the US in 2019. Berlin has decided to move training to Schleswig-Jagel in northern Germany. Holloman AFB in New Mexico has been home to German Air Force fighter jet training since 1992, using both the F-4 Phantom and Panavia Tornado.

The announcement doesn’t come as a surprise, given the reduced number of Tornados still in German operation. A total of 85 of the fighter-bomber jets still fly, with roughly 70 based at two airbases in Germany. The remainder are at Holloman and will return to Germany by 2019, heading to Schleswig-Jagel.

Berlin states training within its own borders is more cost-effective, probably since fever Tornado crews are required. The Eurofighter has largely taken over all of it tasks, although Tornados are currently flying recce mission over Syria.

A Tornado during pre-flight checks. (Image © Luftwaffe/Astrid Burger-Weber)
A Tornado during pre-flight checks. (Image © Luftwaffe/Astrid Burger-Weber)


During the eighties and especially during the nineties, the Tornado was the most numerous fighter aircraft flown by the German Air Force. The type was in use as fighter bomber, recce and SEAD platform and also served as an air-to-air refueller. The German Navy used the jet for anti-shipping warfare.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top):  German Tornados take off from Holloman Air Force Base. (Image © Luftwaffe/Jane Hannemann)


Saudi jets to bomb ISIS from Turkish Incirlik

UPDATED 16 February | The Royal Saudi Air Force is about to send combat jets to Incirlik Airbase in Turkey, to start bombing runs against the so-called Islamic State forces (ISIS / ISIL / Daesh) in Syria.

Update | News surrounding the deployment is vague at best. Most recent info is that the Saudi jets will deploy to Turkey ‘by the end of February’, sources in Riyadh say.

Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Cavusoglu confirmed the Kingdom’s plans Saturday 13 February 2015. Saudi quarter makers already inspected Incirlik and see it fit for operations, Cavusoglu said to Turkish journalists.

Escort Element

With the substantial Russian combat air expeditionary wing operating inside Syria, the RSAF probably will not only deploy air-to-ground attack dedicated F-15S/SA Strike Eagles, Eurofighter Typhoons and Panavia Tornado IDSs – or a mixture of those – but very likely add a dedicated counter-air/air escort element to the ops. That task could either be done by the Typhoons or Saudi F-15C and D Eagle air-supiority fighters.

AH-64 Apache

According to sources in Ankara and in Riyadh the Saudis are even considering a land operation, with troops being flown into Incirlik to cross into Syria from Turkish territory. If that plan will be executed, it may mean involvement of Saudi AH-64 Apache attack helicopters operating from Incirlik as well, but so far that plan is just a plan.

The Saudis are calling an end to the leadership of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, who in turn is more or less supported by Moscow – at least for the time being.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 Eagles at the flightline of Nancy-Ochey Airbase, France, during Exercise Green Shield 2014 (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Military aviation needs its airspace

Civil and military aviation better don’t mix. Why? Let me take you to RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, 3 Fighter Squadron. The squadron has increased its level of training to better prepare its junior pilots before they embark on the year-long Qualified Weapons Instructors’ Course (QWIC) We take turns at being the bad guys during training sorties in the training areas over the North Sea.

Nick Graham is a former Royal Air Force Tornado and Typhoon pilot who also flew F-16s with the Royal Danish Air Force. He’s is currently an instructor pilot, training future jet pilots in the United Arab Emirates. This is his second blog on Airheadsfly.com. Interested in reading Nick's first? Find it here.
Nick Graham is a former Royal Air Force Tornado and Typhoon pilot who also flew F-16s with the Royal Danish Air Force. He’s is currently an instructor pilot, training future jet pilots in the United Arab Emirates.

Today is our turn to be blue air so we invite our sister squadron’s pilots as red air. I’m responsible for the training and will be flying as the number 2. I’ve come up with a scenario that I want red air to use. I have told their flight leader that I want them to simulate the Su-27 Flanker and that they should simulate having airfields to the north of the airspace. Our “target” is an oil rig in the sea near the red airfields.

Almost three hours of planning, briefing and starting aeroplanes later, the blue air flight leader has led us to the tanker flying just north of the airways from Germany. Our radars automatically pick up the airline traffic to the south of us as we approach the tanker. Tanking is a tricky business, but we train as often as we can to make sure we can plug in even at night in cloud. We need protected airspace to allow us to practise this without worrying about other air traffic. The tanker captain is the formation leader and he is doing what he can to stay in smooth air and out of clouds.

Air-to-air refueling requires coordination and space.
Air-to-air refueling requires coordination and space.


After the tanking is done, we talk to GCI who are the guardians of the airspace we use. They monitor the safety of the aircraft using the area and provide a verbal “picture” of where the bad guys are to help us point our radars at them for higher fidelity information which we can use to shoot missiles. The faster and higher a fighter is before firing his missile, the further the missile will go.


Sometimes it isn’t just about maximum range: it is also about energy. If I shoot a missile at closer than maximum range, it has more energy when it finds the target. The missile can use that energy to “fly” after the target. So I can take a very long range shot which the enemy can defeat with a small manoeuvre, or I can take a very short range shot which the enemy can not escape from. Often we take a mixture of both types of shot depending on our best guess of what we think the enemy are going to do. The ranges of these shots are obviously one of the most highly classified parts of a fighter pilot’s job.

With Eurofighter Typhoon, the incredible speed and altitude performance of the jet means that it can shoot missiles at much greater ranges than we have been used to. That means we need to have the airspace distance to take those long shots and altitude to get to the parameters to take the shots.

Nick Graham at work in Typhoon's cockpit.
Nick Graham at work in Typhoon’s cockpit.

Turnin’ and burnin’

We need the areas to be over the sea because most of the fight will be flown at supersonic speeds, often pointing straight down at the ground and in full reheat. The turnin’ and burnin’ and the associated changes in direction and altitude are so fast that ground stations can not keep up with it. We also use chaff to defeat opposition locks and radio jamming to make it trickier to “kill” targets. Finally we need to be able to fly over simulated ground targets and run through the process of finding a target and dropping a bomb on it. This sometimes means flying around a target in circles.

Flying in circles is not for airliners. They prefer straight lines. However , airliners flying in a straight line tends to only happen over the vast expanses of ocean around the World. Not so over the North Sea and over lots more areas everywhere. Why? For all of the above reasons. We better don’t mix.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com contributor Nick Graham

German Tornados towards full strength over Syria

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,


In return, two Tornados deployed earlier will fly back to Germany, leaving a total of six aircraft available for recconaissance missions over Syria. German parliament on 4 December approved the deployment of the jets in a response to the deadly terrorist attack in Paris in November.

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.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Caught at high speed: a German  Panavia Tornado. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

German Tornado jets, helicopters and tanker join the fight against ISIS

UPDATE 4 December | German Air Force Panavia Tornado tactical reconnaissance aircraft, an Airbus tanker and helicopters are almost certainly joining the fight against the so-called Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, as we announced earlier.

Update | German parliament approved the military mission on Friday 4 December, just two days after British parliament gave the green light for UK actions over Syria.

Likely to be okayed by the Reichstag – the German parliament – the Torando jets will possibly be operating from either Cyprus (RAF Akrotori), Turkey (Incirlik) or Jordan. The idea to sent them comes from the German government and is a direct reaction to the terror attacks in Paris a few weeks ago. Those attacks killed at least 130 people and were afterwards claimed by the so-called ISIS / ISIL / Daesh organisation which holds large areas of Syria and Iraq.

Westland Lynx or NH90 helicopters

Berlin’s plan also comprises a frigate of the German Navy to provide additional cover for the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, operating in the Eastern Mediterranean with French Navy Rafale jets targeting ISIS. The German combat vessel will likely have up to two Westland Lynx or NH90 helicopters on board.

Airbus A310 MRTT

Apart from the Marine helicopters and the Luftwaffe Tornadoes, the German Air Force will likely contribute with an Airbus A310 MRTT tanker/transport aircraft. How many combat jets will be sent is not announced yet, but the total number of personnel involved is preliminary set at 1,200, including 200 on board the frigate.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Luftwaffe Panavia Tornado ECR (Image © Elmer van Hest)

A German Air Force A310 MRTT tanker/transport aircraft (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A German Air Force A310 MRTT tanker/transport aircraft (Image © Elmer van Hest)