The first modernized Panavia Tornado took off from Airbus facilities in Manching, Germany. The aircraft belonged to the Tactical Air Force Wing 33 of the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force.
Airbus Defense and Space will carry out an extension of the airframe life expectancy on 85 Tornado combat aircraft of the Luftwaffe. The process will extend their service life from 6,000 flight hours to 8,000. Thus, the aircraft will remain in service until the end of 2030.
To extend the life of this first aircraft identified as 43+42, six Luftwaffe soldiers and 14 Airbus employees dismantled almost the entire plane. They identified all parts that needed repairs or replacement. Certain parts, such as the ring frame, had to be completely reproduced as they were not supposed to ever be replaced. “Each of the 400 or so structural parts required was reproduced and re-installed for the first time,” explained Sergeant Lars König from the Luftwaffe in a statement. “There is no such thing off the shelf.”
As a member of the NATO nuclear sharing agreement, Germany has to maintain a fleet of fighter jets capable of carrying out a nuclear strike. Certifying the Eurofighter Typhoon for such missions was considered for some time. Germany eventually chose the Super Hornet as a replacement for the aging Tornado.