The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing multirole combat aircraft, jointly developed and manufactured by Italy, the United Kingdom and West Germany.
The Luftwaffe in collaboration with Airbus DS carried out the flight of the first Panavia Tornado fighter aircraft with an extended service life.
This first Panavia Tornado of 43 + 42 series of the Tactical Air Force Wing 33, flew from the Airbus facilities in Manching, following a modernization process which will increase the life of the airframe from 6000 to 8000 hours.
“A decision by the Federal Ministry of Defence was decisive for the laborious step of dismantling the fuselage,” the Luftwaffe said. “According to this, all 85 Tornados should remain in service until the end of 2030. This can only be achieved if such extensive work is done.”
To extend airframe life, Airbus had to replace several important structural parts such as the connecting element between the front part and the middle part of the fuselage. To do this, the maintenance teams had to reproduce parts that no longer existed.
“The exchange of important structural parts, such as the ring frame, was a first,” the Luftwaffe said. “Originally it was never planned that this connecting element between the front and middle part of the fuselage would ever have to be replaced. Therefore, the civil-military team could not simply order replacement parts. Each of the 400 or so structural parts required was reproduced and reinstalled for the first time – there is no such thing off the shelf.”
According to a Luftwaffe spokesperson, it took nearly 2,000 steps to dismantle and reassemble the Tornado. Indeed, this airframe update requires the almost complete dismantling of the aircraft at the Airbus Defense and Space plant in Manching, in southern Germany. The engineering, analysis and testing company, Industrieanlagen-Betriebsgesellschaft (IABG) in Ottorbrunn then determines which parts should be replaced, rebuilt and then reinstalled.