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1 Apr, 2018 13:28

Germany’s Tornado warplanes ‘unsuitable for NATO missions’ – report

Germany’s Tornado warplanes ‘unsuitable for NATO missions’ – report

A classified German Defense Ministry report says the country’s fleet of Tornado fighter jets may be unsuitable for conducting NATO missions, several media outlets said.

The report, first cited by the German magazine Spiegel, says the Panavia Tornado, which first entered service in the 1970s, has several equipment flaws that make it vulnerable and no longer suitable for duty. The fleet of fighter jets needs costly modernization if Germany wants to keep them operational until 2035, as it plans. The upgrade would cost millions of euro, if it technically possible at all. This is not a certainty, the report noted.

Among the warplane’s shortcomings are outdated electronic equipment, a lack of proper encryption for its communications, and the absence of NATO-compatible friend-or-foe detection systems.

Of the 97 Tornados currently in service, only 10 meet NATO requirements; and these have already been assigned to the NATO Response Force, according to the document, which was released in February. Commenting on media reports about the state of the German Air Force, a Bundeswehr spokesman said the country was meeting its current NATO obligations thanks to those 10 aircraft.

The Luftwaffe is expected to start phasing out the Tornado fleet in 2025, with the Eurofighter Typhoon believed to be the most likely model to replace them. The US-made Lockheed Martin F-35 and Boeing’s F-15 and F-18 fighters are possible alternatives. Among other requirements, the replacement aircraft would need to be capable of deploying the American nuclear B-61 gravity bombs.

The deficiencies of the German Tornados have long been known and occasionally resulted in embarrassing public incidents. In 2016, their contribution to the US-led coalition counter-terrorist effort in Syria came under question when their cockpit instruments turned out to be too bright for pilots flying night missions in night-vision gear. The fleet was later grounded after monitors in cockpits started losing screws during flights.

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