Apr 15, 2018

Germany fears steeper Tornado costs after the UK ditches its planes

The planned phasing out of the United Kingdom’s last Tornado aircraft has German officials scrambling to deal with the increasing costs of a shrinking fleet.
Continuing aircraft reductions in the tri-national program, which also includes Italy, have led to “significant technical, logistical and financial risk” in maintaining the 1980s-era fighter-bombers, officials have told lawmakers in a confidential report seen by Defense News.
While the prospect of Britain’s exit from the aircraft program has been known since November 2016, there is “no sufficient and comprehensive planning in place” for sustaining the remaining German planes, the report warns.
German defense leaders decided in 2016 to extend the life of the Tornado through 2035, with an assessment planned this summer of implementation plans to that end. Berlin originally purchased 357 aircraft; 93 are still in the inventory today, 88 of which belong to the Luftwaffe, according to the defense ministry.
A handful of German Tornados packed with reconnaissance equipment are currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, flying missions over Iraq and Syria.
The defense ministry’s March 2018 report leaves open the question of how, and if, the UK would retain some kind of role in the program. Last November, the document states, there was talk about introducing a new, fixed scheme for financial contributions, abandoning the practice of going by the number of airframes used in each nation.
The British plan to use the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-35 to absorb missions flown by Tornados. In Germany, the Typhoon appears to be the defense ministry’s preference for a follow-on aircraft, though there are also voices advocating for the F-35. Officials have requested information on both planes from the manufacturers, plus data from the maker of the F-18 and the F-15.

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