The Italian Air Force (ITAF) has taken delivery of the first upgraded Tornado electronic combat / reconnaissance (ECR) mid-life upgrade (MLU) configuration multirole aircraft under contract from Alenia Aermacchi.

Featuring several subsystems and functionality additions, and enhancements to on-board systems, avionics equipment and mission software, the Tornado ECR MLU represents upgrade of the ECR variant currently operational with the air force.

Alenia is under contract to provide ITAF with a total of 15 Tornado ECR fighters, which are primarily designed to localise and suppress hostile air defence radar emitter sources by anti-radar missiles.

As a technical and programme lead, the company is modernising the aircraft’s avionics and systems through installation of an integrated IN-GPS navigation system supported by a multi-mode receiver system for approaches and instrument landing system blind landings.

Representing the latest standards of secure communication capacities, the new communication and identification system also demonstrates data transmission / reception capacity through data-link that integrates tactical air navigation functionalities.

In addition to replacing the pilot and navigator cockpits’ previous monochromatic displays with new TVTAB LCD colour displays to enhance man-machine interface and reduce crew workload, Alenia has also installed internal and external lighting systems that are compatible with night vision goggles.

The fighter’s new software supports installation of new sensors, avionic systems, high-speed anti-radiation missile, as well as the possibility of dropping GPS precision-guided weapons, including joint direct attack munition.

Improvements have also been made to Tornado’s electronic recce capacity through the addition of new functionalities, which are connected with threat identification and localisation, such as ELS multi-ship ranging.

Tornado is a variable-sweep wing combat aircraft being developed by Panavia, a consortium of Alenia Aeronautica, EADS and BAE Systems, in three primary variants for air strike missions.

The aircraft is already in service with the German Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Force and the UK Royal Air Force.

The variants include the Tornado interdictor / strike fighter-bomber for suppression of enemy air defences, the ECR version and an air defence variant interceptor.

Image: The first upgraded Tornado ECR aircraft during its delivery to the Italian Air Force. Photo: © 2012 Alenia Aermacchi – A Finmeccanica Company.

Defence Technology