BONN — The German Air Force is pushing ahead with an upgrade of its Panavia Tornadoes even though a plan to nearly halve the fleet is being significantly speeded up.
The company leading the upgrade effort, EADS’s defense and security subsidiary, Cassidian, said its first production aircraft with the new capability standard ASSTA 3.0 (Avionics System Software Tornado Ada) performed its maiden flight from its Manching site last month.
If the testing runs as scheduled, delivery of the first upgraded Tornado to the German Air Force is planned for mid-2012, said Germany’s biggest defense contractor. The Air Force expects the outfitting of all planes to be finished by mid-2015.
The testing milestone comes in the wake of the country’s military restructuring effort, which includes a cut in the number of Tornado fighter jets from 185 to 85 planes. That process has been sped up and is supposed to be finished by the end of this year.
The remaining aircraft get the technical upgrade, which could keep them multirole combat-ready beyond 2025.
ASSTA 3.0 includes the integration of NATO’s Multifunctional Information Distribution System, (MIDS) Link 16 communication standard, as well as outfitting them with a new radio and a digital video and data recorder.
Besides their improved communication with NATO installations and aircraft, the upgraded Tornadoes will also be able to deliver Laser Joint Direct Attack Munitions (LJDAM), which can be guided to its target by satellite navigation or laser designator. Currently, German Tornadoes are only able to deliver the laser-guided GBU-24 Paveway II, and in the future the laser- or GPS-guided GBU-54 LJDAM.