A technical defect has grounded the newest version of the German army's Tornado aircraft. The problem affects the Bundeswehr's 39 most modern warplanes.
The problem is that the screws have apparently come loose on the housings of a cockpit device. A Ministry of Defense spokesman explained that the problem is "a fastener inside of a device." It is simply a "mechanical problem," he said, "the repair is not complicated, but also not something one can fix on one's own."
The manufacturer, which noticed the problem itself, must now deliver a solution that can be inspected and approved by the air safety experts at the ministry. Ultimately, the problem will likely be able to be dealt with on-site, meaning that planes will be repaired where they are currently stationed.
Grounded since Wednesday evening
Planes owned by other nations are also affected. As is normal in such instances, all affected planes will remain on the ground until the cause of the problem can be found and fixed. The Ministry of Defense grounded all affected planes Wednesday, "in order to guarantee that no danger to persons and materiel exists."
Thus, the defect will immediately affect the German army's "Anti-IS deployment": Currently, all 39 ASST A3 versions of the German Tornado are grounded, among them, six reconnaissance planes stationed at NATO's Incirlik Air Base in eastern Turkey.
Grounded until repaired
The reconnaissance Tornados have the technical ability to transmit real time surveillance imagery to ground stations. Therefore the German army has been participating in the fight against "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria and Iraq since December of last year. German Tornados deliver surveillance video that is used in airstrikes carried out by the anti-IS coalition.
At the moment, only German tanker aircraft, which are not affected by the problem, are in operation. Meanwhile, reconnaissance operations are being conducted by other nations. Politicians from the defense committee of the German parliament visited the country's troop contingent in Incirlik shortly before the problem was discovered.
Not the first problem with the Tornado
The army procured a total of 357 Tornados between 1981 and 1992, some of which were later replaced by the more modern Eurofighter jets. Only 85 Tornados were to be kept after technical updates. These can either be used as fighter-bombers conducting air support for ground troops, or deployed as so-called ECR Tornados (Electronic Combat and Reconnaissance) for the reconnaissance and attack of enemy radar systems. Other problems with the Tornado deployment in Incirlik already occurred early this year: At the time, cockpit displays in the reconnaissance version were so bright that that they affected pilot vision and could only be flown during daylight hours.