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Tornado IDS (Interdiction Strike)

The Tornado is the result of an Italian-British-German industrial partnership created to fulfil the three air forces’ requirement for a long-range interdiction and strike aircraft, also with reconnaissance and long-range air defense capabilities. The Tornado has been the first and the most advanced multinational aeronautical program made in the post-war period in the defense sector in Europe.

The Panavia PA 200 Tornado was produced three main versions: IDS (interdiction/strike), ECR (modification of IDS for Electronic Combat and Reconnaissance) and ADV (Air Defense Variant). Germany ordered 359 IDS aircraft including four refurbished pre-series items: 157 strike (S), 35 modified as ECR and 55 dual control for the Luftwaffe; 112 strike, including 12 dual control, for the Marineflieger. The UK ordered a total of 229 IDS (including 51 T "trainers" and one former pre-series aircraft) as well as 197 ADV (52 dual control) for the Royal Air Force. Italy ordered 87 IDS strike (16 were later modified as ECR) and 12 T series aircraft. Deliveries to RAF operational units began on January 6, 1982, to the German Navy on July 2, and to the Italian Air Force on August 27 that same year. In 1993 the Italian Air Force signed a ten-year contract with the RAF for the lease of 24 Tornado ADV (F. Mk 3) including four dual control.

The Tornado has made its first flight in 1974 and has entered into service with the Italian Air Force in 1983. Alenia Aermacchi supports the Italian Air Force fleet, including the mid-life update program. A Tornado partner with EADS and BAE SYSTEMS since program inception, Alenia Aermacchi built the variable-geometry wings for the entire production run and assembled 99 machines for Italy, some of which later upgraded to Italian ECR standard.

The Tornado is a twin-engine combat aircraft, two-seat, with variable-sweep wings and all-weather capabilities which the Italian Air Force has achieved since 1982. With the end of the threat of a global military war, the chance to use an aircraft such as the Tornado, the effectiveness of which has been enhanced with the acquisition of advanced weapon systems, is essentially for the so called 'crisis response operations'. These are operations conducted during the most venomous phases of a military fight with the aim to activate a process of gradual stabilization, develop the action of deterrence which allow, together, to ensure, from the sky, the safety of land forces and nip in the bud any possible 'backfire'.

The role of these aircraft must be framed with instrumental aims within the peaceful vocation of the country. In the IDS (Interdiction Strike) version, in service at the 6th Wing in Ghedi (Brescia), the Tornado can be employed as fighter bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. The 50th Wing in Piacenza, instead, is equipped with the IT-ECR (Electronic Combat Reconnaissance) version, specialized in the suppression of enemy air defense through the use of air-surface missiles AGM-88 HARM.

After over 20 years-service the Tornado is still today one of the most effective interdiction and tactical aircraft in service in the world. Alenia Aeronautica has been responsible for the wings design and production of the 929 airplanes of the program and has managed the final assembly of the 99 aircraft ordered by the Italian Air Force. The Italian Air Force Tornados are undergoing the MLU upgrading program (Mid Life Upgrade) which envisages improvement in operational capabilities and avionic upgrading to allow the aircraft to be fully active at least until 2025.

The first updating program phase, mainly aimed at the introduction of new communication, navigation and armament systems, has been concluded in the first months of 2007 with delivery to ItAF of the last of the 18 aircraft, which have undergone modification. A contract regarding upgrading of further 15 aircraft in the basic full MLU standard has been signed in October 2007; such contract include the introduction of additional capabilities like the Night Vision Imaging System capability. In the next years a further modernization phase is planned, that will involve other 30 aircraft and that will have to be completed by the end of 2013.

Panavia Aircraft GmbH has signed a major contract with NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) to upgrade the Tornado jets in Italy On 21 February 2013 the MET 27 contract was signed between NETMA, represented by the General Manager, Jesus Prieto Pinillos, and Panavia, represented by the Managing Director, Dr. Welf-Werner Degel. The agreement demonstrates a commitment by all parties in achieving continued efficiencies on the programme; long-term support for the sustainability of aircraft and capability upgrades of the platform. The objective of MET Contract Annex 27 is the integration of the two new Weapons, namely the Advanced – Anti Radiation-Guided- Missile (AARGM) and the Small-Diameter-Bombs (SDBs) on the Tornado RET 7 and RET 8 configuration.

The MET Contract Annex 27 covers a three years implementation activity plus flight test activity: the Integration activities of both Weapons in a common Software load with one unique Panavia Service Release Recommendation (PSRR) by December 2015 (36 months activity, the activity has already launched by an ITP on November 2012). All the Panavia Partner Companies are involved, mainly Alenia Aermacchi and CASSIDIAN as well as the suppliers BOING and ATK.

According to State Secretary Christian Schmidt in October 2012, the Air Force currently had 91 tornadoes in the version "Interdiction Strike" (IDS), which are suitable for nuclear sharing. From 2013 this number was expected to reduce to 65 aircraft. This would have implications for the Büchel Air Base. Because according to Bundeswehr structural reform of the Tornado to be used at this location further, while other Air Force sites like Rostock-Laage, Neuburg, Nörvenich and Wittmund are converted to the Euro Fighter. Military experts as well as opposition politicians had therefore criticized the presumed end of the term of this weapon system at the Büchel Air Base at the time that after 2025. The exact number of tornadoes, which are kept for nuclear sharing in Büchel, is unknown by the public, given the secrecy within NATO. But the the weapon system Tornado IDS covering a wide range of tasks of the Air Force, and are not kept solely and specifically for the nuclear sharing. In Büchel 10 to 20 US nuclear weapons are suspected. The Tornado is the only nuclear-capable aircraft of the Bundeswehr.

The German fleet, which once numbered roughly 350 planes of several variants, was progressively reduced, meaning that retired airplanes could be cannibalized for spare parts. By 2020 parts for the remaining 85 airplanes had to be manufactured at great cost — or taken from jets that are undergoing maintenance and built into those about to be returned to the Air Force, leading to long delays in planes becoming airworthy again. The situation was so dire that pilots are struggling to fulfill the quota of flight hours needed to maintain their license — and it is leading to a shortage of flightworthy planes needed for the nuclear sharing agreement and other missions. The German Ministry of Defense put the expenditure for the Tornado fleet, including maintenance, procurement and development, at €502 million ($562 million) in 2018. And in 2020, the figure was estimated to reach €629 million.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:33 ZULU