Four Panavia Tornado strike aircraft will leave the Italian air force's Ghedi air base on 24 November for Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan, from where they will provide reconnaissance services for the Italian military contingent operating in the country's Herat province.
Assigned to the 6th Fighter Wing, the Tornados are equipped with Rafael Reccelite reconnaissance pods (below), which feature daylight and infrared sensors and solid-state data storage recorders for post-mission image analysis. The aircraft can also download collected data in near real time through a two-way digital datalink to ground or portable stations, and receive requests for new reconnaissance tasks.
© Italian air force
The deploying aircraft have all passed through the first phase of Italy's mid-life upgrade programme for the Tornado, which introduces enhanced mission avionics and cockpit lighting compatible with new-generation night-vision goggles.
Also involving 100 personnel, the deployment in support of NATO's International Security Assistance Force is expected to last 12 months, and will supplement the Italian air force's detachment of three General Atomics RQ-1 Predator unmanned air vehicles in providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services.
The Tornados will initially be based at Mazar-e-Sharif airport, but will move to Herat as soon as Italian air force rapid deployment logistics support personnel complete upgrading the base's runway to accommodate fighters.
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