Ukrainian media have caught up the idea of the Deputy Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andrii Melnyk for Germany to start supplying Tornado multirole combat aircraft to Ukraine, since there are as many as 93 planes in the German air force waiting to be replaced with F-35 anyway.
With all due respect to these efforts, we must note that the choice of this particular weapon in question for the Ukrainian Air Force might not be a good one, especially in light of the fact that there is another type of aircraft that is much more realistic for Ukraine to get from Germany.
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The Tornado multirole aircraft was mass-produced in 1979-1999, it has a combat mass of 9 tons and a combat radius of 1,400 km. This aircraft can use a wide variety of guided rockets and cruise missiles, including the Brimstone or the SCALP (a.k.a. Storm Shadow).
Western countries applied Tornado in several military operations: "Operation Desert Storm" in 1991, the war in Yugoslavia in 1999, "Operation Iraqi Freedom" in 2003, and even the strikes against ISIS in 2015-2018.
From every perspective, the German Tornado jets look like a perfect candidate to reinforce the Ukrainian Air Force in its fight against russian aircraft and missile strikes.
But now we must emphasize the following. Actually, Germany has not 93 but 88 Tornado planes: 68 of them are of the ICR attack modification, and the rest 20 are aircraft of the ECR electronic warfare modification.
That is why, even if "on paper" the Germans have 88 jets, the practical number of these planes in service with the Luftwaffe is much less because Germany launched a program on the modernization of its Tornados with the deadline set for 2025. This program aims to extend the term of their service until 2030.
For these works, the German Air Force involved two major contractors: domestic Airbus Defense and Swedish Saab. The format of the work provides that Tornado must be plucked out from the military service since the companies have to overhaul the planes and replace up to 400 aging nodes in each aircraft's systems.
As for the terms for a potential transfer of the German Tornado, there are nuances as well. It is true that Berlin seeks to replace these aircraft with F-35 fifth-generation fighters and expects to receive the first of them in 2026, even ready to pay a record-breaking sum of 10 billion euros for that.
However, as of early January 2023, Germany hasn't concluded a firm contract with the USA on the supply of the F-35. Consequently, as long as there are no F-35s, Germany will be unlikely to discard from service or give off its Tornado, since they are still necessary as potential carriers for the American-made B61-12 tactical nuclear bombs.
On the other hand, there are some real "redundant" combat aircraft, but of another type, the Eurofighter. There is a certain number of these jets preserved in warstocks in Germany, and the country has previously found it acceptable to sell three used Eurofighters to the Austrian Air Force.
These are the aircraft that have a higher chance to go to Ukraine, especially now that if we look at it, the Eurofighter can carry some interesting weapons, including the SCALP cruise missiles, and the Meteor air-to-air missiles with an operational range of 200 km.
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