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Tornado Electronic Combat Reconnaissance (ECR)

Panavia Tornado Electronic Combat Reconnaissance (ECR) is a Tornado strike aircraft modified to carry the HARM and an associated emitter location system to give the ECR a capability similar to the F-4G "Advanced Wild Weasel". The Tornado ECR is operated by the German and Italian Air Forces.

The South Korean Air Force had been particularly interested in expanding its electronic warfare capabilities. In 1991 it considered but apparently rejected the possibility of purchasing Panavia Tornado ECR variants for suppression of enemy air defense missions -- an interest specifically raised by this system's performance in the Gulf War. As a possible alternative, the Air Force has discussed applying Wild Weasel technology suitable to its F-4Es, including the HARM anti-radiation missile.

Since 20 March 2011, the date of the start of operations, aimed at the realization of the main objectives set by the UN Secu rity Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, in example establishing a no-?y zone over Libyan skies. protecting civilians and the most populated areas of the North African country, the Italian Air Force actively participated in the "Coalition of the Willing" in the scope of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

The Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, SEAD, is a skill in which the Italian Air Force is among the most capable in the international arena. As such, the ItAF was the only other force, together with the Americans. to have employed this capability in Operation Unified Protector.

The equipment on board the Tornado ECR (Electronic Combat Reconnaissance) aircraft from Piacenza Airbase's 50th Wing is capable of detecting and locating dangerous mobile enemy air defense radar systems emissions and, if necessary, neutralizing them through the use of air-to-surface AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile). This activity, which forces opposing forces to take down their radar to avoid being identified and destroyed. is a fundamental practice executed to protect air assets that enter into the area of operations.

The Tornado ECR MLU is the upgrade of the ECR version currently in use by the Italian Air Force. Its main function is to localize and suppress hostile air defense radar emitter sources by anti-radar missiles. The aircraft upgrade includes several subsystems and functionality additions as well as modifications to the on-board systems, avionics equipment and mission software. The Tornado ECR MLU features an integrated IN-GPS navigation system supported by a Multi-Mode Receiver (MMR) system for approaches and ILS blind landings.

The new communication and identification system embodies the latest standards of secure communication capacities as well as a data transmission/reception capacity via Data-Link (MIDS), which integrates TACAN navigation functionalities. The pilot and navigator cockpits feature new multifunction display suites that improve man-machine interface and reduce crew workload; the navigator cockpit features new TVTAB LCD color displays that replace former monochromatic display and the internal and external lighting systems are compatible with NVG night vision goggles.

The electronic recce capacity, a crucial component of the Tornado ECR operating mission, has also been improved through new functionalities connected with the threat identification and localization (ELS multi-ship ranging). The new aircraft’s software allow the integration of new sensors and avionic systems and enables also the integration of a new version of anti-radiation missiles (HARM) and also the possibility of dropping GPS precision-guided weapons (JDAM).

Alenia Aermacchi, in collaboration with BAE Systems and Cassidian, its Panavia consortium partners, delivered the first upgraded Tornado ECR (Electronic Combat/ Reconnaissance) to the Italian Air Force in May 2013. Alenia Aermacchi, as technical and program leader, was in the process of upgrading the avionics and systems of 15 Tornado ECR.

The Italian Air Force MLU programme incorporated multi-function/ colour displays and implemented Night Vision Google (NVG) capability, as well as armament system improvements; updated avionics included new GPS/ LINS, En-SAHR, upgraded communication system and implemented MIDS Link 16. The aircraft is now capable to operate Storm Shadow stand-off missile, GPS and laser guided weapons (JDAM and Enhanced Paveway III laser-guided bombs), RecceLite reconnaissance and Laser pods.

Additional Small Diameter Bombs integration (providing ultra-precision & low collateral munition), embodiment of an innovative Anti-Radiation Missile (for advanced air defence suppression) and a new Chaff & Flare dispenser pod development were concluded in 2016 for the full satisfaction of the Italian customer.

This will facilitate efficient action in any future operational scenario, though within the framework of the instrumental objectives of the Italian Constitution and defence policy, which advocate a process of gradual stabilization, develop deterrence, enhance the safety of land forces and preempt any possible 'backfire'.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:32 ZULU