ILA: German Tornado upgrade on track as laser JDAM tests near

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The German air force is exhibiting one of its newly upgraded Panavia Tornado strike aircraft at the show, with the type to remain in frontline use until at least 2025.

One of three aircraft to have been returned to Luftwaffe use in late June following the completion of ASSTA 3.0 modernisation work led by Cassidian, the Tornado is assigned to the Büchel-based Fighter Bomber Wing 33.

A total of 85 aircraft are due to be modified under the ASSTA programme, with the last of these to be completed in 2018. Five have been handed over so far, with deliveries running at a rate of one per month.

 Credit: BillyPix

Work conducted under the upgrade includes adding a Saab radar warning receiver below the forward fuselage, a digital moving map sourced from the Eurofighter Typhoon programme, a digital video and data recorder, and a Saturn radio.

A new display also enables the pilot to see imagery from the aircraft's targeting pod for the first time. Crucially, it also introduces the hardware and basic software for the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS)/Link 16 datalink.

"What the air force will see is a huge leap forward in technology," says Thomas Beck, programme manager for the ASSTA effort.

Another key enhancement is the integration of Boeing's GBU-54 laser-guided JDAM. Five of the 226kg (500lb) weapons will be released over Sweden's Vidsel test range next month as part of an operational test and evaluation activity involving four aircraft.

Full integration of the MIDS equipment will come with a subsequent ASSTA 3.1 phase in 2015. This will also replace obsolete displays in the rear cockpit and introduce new chaff and flare dispensers to further boost self-protection.