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By Stefan Nitschke

The future of the German Navy’s Tornado maritime strike capability is cleared

The German Navy is in the process of preparing for radical changes in terms of roles, organisation, and capabilities. Therefore, the Navy’s equipment plans which were revised significantly downwards during the last two years, transferred its Tornado IDS (Interdictor Strike) aircraft originally based at the Navy’s MFG/Marinefliegergeschwader 2 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Eggebek to the Luftwaffe’s only reconnaissance unit (AufklG 51).

The closure of NAS Eggebek and transfer of its fleet of Tornado IDS aircraft to the Luftwaffe was ordered by the German Defence Minister Peter Struck who – as issued in his ministerial defence guidelines in May 2003 – outlined that maritime tasks will be distilled into two broad of which the first embraces conflict prevention, crisis management, anti-terror and homeland security operations, and support to NATO. The second category will involve more benign activities such as international partnership and cooperation, search and rescue (SAR), evacuation, and safety of life at sea.

The idea behind the restructuring is based primarily on a Navy requirement, but there seem to have been also reviews undertaken by the Luftwaffe to widen its capabilities. But it may be indeed an outcome of the transformation process which has almost completely affected the German armed forces during the past year. As air components are becoming increasingly digitised, a maritime attack capability under Luftwaffe command will therefore comprise a smaller number of the fast-moving, wide-ranging Tornado aircraft having a centralised C2 system to also certainly involve LINK 16 as has been already introduced or being planned for integration on modern surface assets of the Navy under the umbrella of the purely CPM-designed “Faehigkeitsanpassung Fregatte 122/123”.

In contrast to traditional Tornado operations which were considered to be platform-centric (whereby each weapon system acted independently), the future Tornado force also performing maritime strike must focus on passing battlespace information more rapidly than before among different entities to increase their ability to better respond to threats and to improve combat operations and decision-making. The key is therefore to achieve connectivity to other force elements. These could be unmanned platforms performing ISTAR tasks. When functioning together with manned combat aircraft, the latter will have an extremely vital role as these single systems operating as a network of sub-systems will be able to prosecute three dimensional operations, whereby maritime, land, and air operations will increasingly merge into one another.

While flight operations at NAS Eggebek have ended in late 2004 and the last two Tornado aircraft are about to leave the airfield on 18 June this year, the Luftwaffe’s AufklG 51 based at Leck some 30 kilometres by air to the northwest near the Danish border is to take over key capabilities in the fields of maritime strike and maritime reconnaissance. Critics were prompting to argue that any key maritime capability to be shifted to Luftwaffe units must be carefully transferred without the loss of the high-capacity knowledge base which has been achieved over the last several decades. This would also involve careful training of Luftwaffe crews and the introduction of the knowledge base into the future force structure to form a robust maritime strike capability.

With the growing emphasis on operations to be conducted in littoral regions and the great changes which took place in recent years with respect to both weaponry and tactics, it seems likely that the Luftwaffe will have the appropriate means to accomplish this. Littoral warfare will increasingly encompass missions carried out against asymmetric threats as best represented by small surface targets which include fast and agile ma

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