Some really cool footage shows the Tornado aircraft in action during their 3-year deployment to Mazar-i-Sharif.
For 3 years, from 2007 to 2010, a contingent of six German Air Force Tornado IDS aircraft operated over Afghanistan, flying reconnaissance sorties in support of NATO International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) and Resolute Support (RS) missions.
Belonging to the Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 (AG51) “Immelmann” (51st Reconnaissance Wing – renamed, in 2013, as Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 51 – Tactical Air Force Wing 51 and equipped since then with Tornado ECRs) based at Schleswig, the “recce Tornados” were deployed to Mazar-i-Sharif, Northern Afghanistan, and during their operational tour generated more than 50,000 aerial photographs from almost 4,600 reconnaissance sorties across Afghanistan.
The video in this post was filmed back then and provides a glimpse into the life of the Luftwaffe aircrews and their missions over Afghanistan back then.
One of coolest parts of the clip is the take off segment, showing the German Tornado banking hard to the left after rotation and keeping low level to accelerate before zooming at higher altitude (with precautionary release of flares to disguise eventual IR-guided missiles fired from MANPADS – Man Portable Air Defense Systems). Then, there’s plenty of low level flying between the mountains, aerial refueling from U.S. tankers; and, again, low level recovery to Mazar-i-Sharif.
Interestingly, the footage shows the Tornado IDSs carrying the Telelens pod used before the Reccelite was introduced: the old one carried two Zeiss KS153A wet-film optical cameras for missions at altitudes over 2,000 feet.
The German Air Force is believed to operate around 20 of its 35 Tornado ECRs. Initially, the Tornado IDS/ECR were to be replaced entirely by Eurofighters, with the new Eurofighter ECR variant replacing the specialized Tornado ECR. However, under the current plans, Germany intends to replace its fleet of Tornado ECR and IDS aircraft with a mix of 55 Eurofighters, 30 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 15 E/A-18G Growlers.
H/T to Aljoša Jarc for the heads-up!