Four long-range missiles to be released during eight-week campaign in South Africa

Three of the Italian air force's modernised Panavia Tornado interdictor strike aircraft will leave Ghedi air base near Brescia next week to participate in a service evaluation trial of MBDA's Storm Shadow cruise missile at South Africa's Overberg test range.

"During the eight-week deployment, crews and personnel belonging to the air force test wing and the 6th Wing at Ghedi will launch four operational missiles equipped with telemetry packages instead of warheads," says Lt Col Renato Feliciani, team leader for the trials programme.

To include daylight and night-time missions, the evaluation will involve releasing the more than 250km (135nm)-range weapon against two target types - a construction in an urban environment and a protected military structure. "The scope of the weapon system evaluation trials is to validate the service's command, control and targeting planning process," Feliciani says.

© Troupe Azzurra Italian Air Force

Italy will deploy three Tornados for the Overberg evaluations

Preparations for the Storm Shadow trials began in Italy several months ago and have included capturing imagery of the Overberg range area from a Helios observation satellite to provide mission planning information for the missile's imaging-infrared terminal sensor. The weapon's mission data file was also validated in Italy using a Tornado trials aircraft.

The three Tornados will be accompanied by two Italian air force Lockheed Martin C-130J transports and a UK Royal Air Force Lockheed TriStar tanker during their deployment to Overberg across eastern Africa, with a French air force Boeing C-135 to provide support for the return journey. A third C-130J will transport the Storm Shadow weapons via the Canary islands and Ascension Island. Denel's OTB division will provide range management and support services during the trials.

Italy has already taken delivery of its first of 200 Storm Shadow missiles from MBDA, with its 1999 order also including 16 ground and flying training munitions and four telemetry rounds. The Broach warhead-equipped weapon will initially arm its upgraded Tornados, but will also later be integrated with its Eurofighter Typhoon strike aircraft.

Other customers for Storm Shadow/Scalp EG variants include France, Greece, the United Arab Emirates and the UK.

Source: Flight International