Luftwaffe to join Syria mission for reconnaissance
Germany has responded to pressure from France to become more involved in the mission against Islamic State (IS). It looks set to deploy 4-6 Tornados, which will operate in the reconnaissance role. The Luftwaffe will also deploy one of its Airbus A310 tanker aircraft to support probe and drogue compatible receivers.
The German Tornado fleet is comprised of fighter-bomber IDS and SEAD/reconnaissance ECR variants. These aircraft are currently being upgraded to ASSTA 3 (Avionics System Software Tornado Ada) standard.
The modernization includes Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems (MIDS), new radar warning receivers, an advanced radio with jamming-resistant UHF channels, a digital video and data recorder, and the integration of new weapon types.
Thanks to the multi-function displays, an improved, digital map display, and the enhanced presentation of important tactical information.
The new cockpit layout eases the workload of the pilot, but also involves changes to cockpit procedures and in the communications between the weapons system officer and pilot. As a result, training of crews for the new standard is essential. After several days of theory, there is a familiarization flight for the pilot. The weapons system officer is required to perform two such flights in order to be awarded a certificate of competence on the ASSTA 3 standard.
Should the German Tornado role be expanded to include weapons employment, the ASSTA 3 standard includes the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kit, including GBU-54 Laser JDAM. Fast, mobile targets such as armored vehicles can be precisely targeted with GBU-54 guided bombs, for example.
Parallel to the ASSTA 3 activities, further developments are already under way on the next ASSTA 3.1 standard. In this, among other changes, the remaining monochrome cockpit monitors are to be replaced with color displays. With the provision of a single standard, the two versions of the Tornado (IDS and ECR) that are currently in use will be able to fly similar missions, despite different basic configurations. Thus, for example, the ECR will in future be used for both reconnaissance missions and conventional air-to-ground attack sorties.
Under current plans, the Tornado fleet will therefore remain multi-role capable beyond 2025, with TaktLwG 51 ‘Immelmann’ at Jagel with the Tornado ECR and with TaktLwG 33 at Büchel – the only Luftwaffe unit equipped with the Litening III targeting pod, reccelite and the ‘smart’ munitions.