Focus On The Tornado IDS With RecceLite II Pod Flying ISR Missions In Support Of Operation Inherent Resolve

Two Italian Air Force Tornado IDS flying over Kuwait. This image is featured on the 2021 calendar of the Italian Air Force (Image credit: Troupe Azzurra/ItAF)

The Tornado IDS aircraft of the Italian Air Force are tasked with ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions in support of OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve).

From Aug. 12, 2020, four Tornado IDS aircraft, belonging to the 154° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 6° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force, operating as part of the Task Group Devil, are deployed to Ahmed Al Jaber airbase, Kuwait to conduct “recce” (reconnaissance) missions in support of the multi-national coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

The Tornado IDS (that in Italy are designated A-200A/C) replaced the Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons of the Task Group Typhoon, which had been deployed since Mar. 26, 2019, when they replaced the Task Group Black Cats (equipped with AMX A-11 Ghibli) aircraft under the Italian Nation Contingent Command Air/Task Force Air Kuwait as part of “Prima Parthica” (as the Italian Armed Forces operation is dubbed at national level) that was established on Oct. 17, 2014.

Two Tornado IDS taxiing at Ahmed Al Jaber. (Image credit: ItAF)

This is the second “tour of duty” of the Tornados in support of OIR. The last time the “Tonkas” (as the jets are nicknamed) were deployed to Kuwait was 5 years ago. From the end of 2014 to March 2016, the Tornado IDS jets of the 6th Wing (normally based at Ghedi, in northeastern Italy), logged 3,000 flight hours and collected imagery of +2,000 targets. During the first 100 days of deployment this year, the Tornados have already logged 500 FH and collected imagery of about 1,400 POIs (Point Of Interest). For comparison, from March 2019 to August 2020, the Typhoons have flown 2,900 FH in 700 sorties, covering 9,000 POIs.

The Tornados have carried out ISR missions in Afghanistan too: from November 2008 to December 2009, the Italian A-200s were deployed to Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, from where they supported ISAF with recce missions: many of these were tasked with the aim of discovering opium poppy farms and depots across the country.

RecceLite II pod

The Rafael Reccelite II reconnaissance pod is the Italian Air Force’s tactical pod of choice to carry out ISR missions: it is a Day/Night electro-optical pod able to provide real-time imagery collection. It is made of a stabilized turret, solid-state on board recorder that provides image collections in all directions, from high, medium and low altitudes. The Reccelite reconnaissance pod is used to broadcast live video imagery via datalink to ground stations and to ROVER (Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver) tactical receivers in a range of about 100 miles.

Managed by the NAV (navigator – the backseater in the Tornado) the pod is usually used in automatic mode (in other words, it takes the shots based on the GPS points inserted through the MPS, MIssion Planning System).

The Reccelite pod carried by a Tornado IDS. (Image credit: David Cenciotti)

The Tornados have used the pod in combat also in 2011, during Operation Unified Protector in Libya.

A Tornado at Trapani in 2011, during OUP (Operation Unified Protector) carrying a RecceLite pod. (Image credit: David Cenciotti)

The pod can also be carried by the AMX ACOL A-11 and by the Typhoon (that has integrated the RecceLite in 2015).

Points Of Interest

The POIs are preliminarily studied and analyzed by the analysts who collaborate in the planning of the mission and whose role is to identify the optimal flight path necessary for the pod to acquire the most suitable and best possible quality images.

The data collected by the aircraft are analyzed and enhanced thanks to the work of the Italian Integrated Multisensor Exploitation I2MEC Cell, an integral element of the Italian National Contingent Command Air.

Transformed into “information products” of various types, they are distributed to the Coalition fighting Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

One of the four Tornado IDS of the Task Group Devil. (Image credit: ItAF)
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.