Home Air First German Air Force Tornado completes life extension program

First German Air Force Tornado completes life extension program

German Air Force Tornado
Tornado 43 + 42 takes off at Manching airport following the upgrade. Photo: German Air Force

The first German Air Force Tornado air-to-ground and air defense fighter to undergo an extensive life-extension overhaul has completed its first flight.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

Tornado 43+42 sits at the Airbus facility after dry stripping. Photo: German Air Force

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.

One of the most important tasks carried out by the aircraft is to carry the B61 nuclear gravity bomb. Germany plans to buy 30 Super Hornets that would assume this role from the Tornado, while another 15 Growler aircraft would take over the electronic attack role that is performed by the aircraft that entered service in the 1980s.