Luftwaffe Tornado fighter bombers lack updated encryption device for secure comms

Luftwaffe Tornado fighter bombers lack updated encryption device for secure comms

By Dario Leone
Apr 7 2018
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The communication devices of the Tornado also do not meet current standards, meaning there’s a risk that information could be intercepted

A report by Reuters says Luftwaffe (German Air Force) Tornado fighter-bombers might not be able to join NATO missions as the jets cannot communicate over encrypted channels.

A defense ministry report seen by Reuters said it was not possible to build an encryption device for the fighter.

The communication devices of the Tornado also do not meet current standards, the report said, meaning there’s a risk that information could be intercepted.

“This could in the worst case mean that the demand for an encrypted communication system for the Tornado weapons system can’t be achieved. That means the Tornado weapons system may not take part in NATO missions,” the report states.

Nevertheless according a spokesman for the Luftwaffe, the 10 Tornado fighter bombers registered for the NATO Response Force met current requirements. The spokesman did not provide further details.

The report was first cited by German magazine Spiegel.

Germany wants to start phasing out the Tornado jets in 2025 and the defense ministry has said that the Eurofighter Typhoon is the leading candidate, with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and Boeing’s F-15 and F-18 fighters also options.

Instead Luftwaffe’s “preferred choice” is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, a German Air Force official said at the International Fighter Conference on Nov. 8, 2017.

According to the same official in fact, the Lightning II can satisfy most of Germany’s requirements and offer other benefits as well.

“The Tornado replacement needs to be fifth-generation aircraft that can be detected as late as possible, if at all. It must be able to identify targets from a long way off and to target them as soon as possible.

“The German Ministry of Defence [MoD] is looking at several aircraft today, including the F-35 – it is commercially available already, has been ordered by many nations and is being introduced into service today, and has most of the capabilities required.”

Furthermore the head of Luftwaffe, Lt. Gen. Karl Müllner, added that his service “considers the F-35’s capability as the benchmark for the selection process for the Tornado replacement, and I think I have expressed myself clearly enough as to what the favourite of the air force is.”

Luftwaffe Tornado fighter bombers lack updated encryption device for secure comms

Müllner will be leaving his post in May in large part due to his support for a German procurement of the F-35.

Photo credit: TSgt. Brad Fallin and Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald / U.S. Air Force


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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