The first German Air Force Panavia Tornado air-to-ground and air defense fighter to undergo an extensive life-extension overhaul has completed its first flight with the goal of seeing the wider fleet out to its 2030 retirement date. The Tornado with the designation 43+42 took off from the Manching airport for the test flight after receiving new structural parts and other upgrades at the Airbus facility in Manching. Following the overhaul, the aircraft will be fit for another 2,600 flight hours and will return to its home in Büchel in March this year. 43+42 started the overhaul after about 40 years of service and after spending several years at the Holloman air force base serving as a training platform for pilots. It returned from the US in May 2017.
According to the German Air Force, Airbus has already started work on the second airframe, a Tornado with the designation 45+14 Tactical Air Force Squadron 51 “Immelmann”. The German Air Force announced on 10 February that the first Tornado, serial 43+42 from Tactical Air Force Wing 33, had flown following the process that had seen its airframe life extended to 8,000 flight hours from the type’s current 6,000 flight hours. In April 2020, Germany awarded Panavia Aircraft GmbH, the builder of the Tornado fighter, a contract for the integration of the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) onto the aircraft for an enhanced suppression of air defenses (SEAD-X) capability. The German Air Force intends to keep its remaining 85 Tornado aircraft in service by 2030, after originally receiving a total of 357 units.
The first Tornado prototype made its first flight on 14 August 1974 from Ingolstadt Manching Airport, in what was then West Germany. Deliveries of production Tornados began on 27 July 1979. The total number of Tornados delivered to the German Air Force numbered 247, including 35 ECR variants. Originally Tornados equipped five fighter-bomber wings (Geschwader), with one tactical conversion unit and four front line wings, replacing the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. In April 2020, Germany announced its replacement for its Tornado aircraft will be a split purchase of 30 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, 15 EA-18G Growlers and 55 Eurofighter Typhoons. The Super Hornet was selected due to its compatibility with nuclear weapons and availability of an electronic attack version.
The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing multirole combat aircraft, jointly developed and manufactured by Italy, the United Kingdom and West Germany. There are three primary Tornado variants: the Tornado IDS (interdictor/strike) fighter-bomber, the suppression of enemy air defences Tornado ECR (electronic combat/reconnaissance) and the Tornado ADV (air defence variant) interceptor aircraft. The Tornado was developed and built by Panavia Aircraft GmbH, a tri-national consortium consisting of British Aerospace, MBB of West Germany, and Aeritalia of Italy. Due to its multirole design, it was able to replace several different fleets of aircraft in the adopting air forces. The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) became the only export operator of the Tornado in addition to the three original partner nations.