The Italian Aerospace Information Web
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First Italian Air Force's "Basic IT Full MLU" Tornado Makes Maiden Flight

At the end of July, the first IAF's Tornado upgraded to Basic IT Full MLU (Mid Life Upgrade) configuration by Alenia Aeronautica flew for the first time at Turin/Caselle airport. The RET 7 (Retro Enabling Task 7) contract between IAF and Alenia Aeronautica includes the upgrade of a further 14 IDS variant aircraft (three of them being dual control with trainer capability). They will be delivered within the first half of 2012, at a rate of about one aircraft every 45 days.
This retrofit programme includes the introduction of Night Vision Goggles (NVG) capability and the integration of new systems such as Flight Data Recorder, Emergency Locator Transmitter, Multi Mode Receiver and Multifunctional Information Distribution System.
The first such-configured Tornado - line number IS086 (MM7087) - is slightly ahead of the planned schedule. Its first flight, with Enrico Scarabotto and Marcello Battaglia test pilots at the controls, was flawless and lasted about one hour.
The RET 7 contract is just a part of a more comprehensive MLU programme aimed to ensure operational effectiveness of the IAF's Tornado fleet till 2025. The fifteen aircraft involved are the second tranche of Tornado aircraft retrofitted for the Italian Air Force. In 2006 the first retrofit programme - called "IT MLU First Upgrade” (RET 6 contract) was concluded, integrating new NAV/COM systems and weapons onto a first tranche of 18 Tornado IDS. A further upgrade programme ("IT Full MLU") is envisaged to cover a final tranche of 25 IDS and ECR aircraft.
The powerful PA 200 Tornado, a multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA), was the result of the first large collaborative programme between three European countries (Germany, Italy and United Kingdom) in the military aviation sector. A consortium called Panavia was set up in 1969 as the industrial prime contractor. It consisted of the German MBB (42.5%), the British Aircraft Corporation (42.5%) and Aeritalia (15%), with headquarters in Munich. The first PA 200 prototype flew for the first time at Manching in Germany on August 14, 1974. It was followed by eight more prototypes and six pre-series aircraft, assembled and flown by the three partner companies.
Panavia PA 200 Tornado series production involved three main versions: IDS (interdiction/strike), ECR (modification of IDS for Electronic Combat and Reconnaisance) and ADV (Air Defence Variant). IDS and ADV variants have been produced in single control (S) and dual control (T) layouts. Deliveries to RAF operational units began on January 6, 1982, to the German Navy on July 2, and to the Italian Air Force on August 27 that same year.
Germany ordered 359 IDS aircraft including four refurbished pre-series items: 157 strike (S), 35 modified as ECR and 55 dual control for the Luftwaffe; 112 strike, including 12 dual control, for the Marineflieger. The UK ordered a total of 229 IDS (including 51 T "trainers" and one former pre-series aircraft) as well as 197 ADV (52 dual control) for the Royal Air Force. Italy ordered 87 IDS strike (16 were later modified as ECR) and 12 T series aircraft. In 1993 the Italian Air Force signed a ten-year contract with the RAF for the lease of 24 Tornado ADV (F. Mk 3) including four dual control. These were used to equip the 12th Gruppo of the 36th Stormo at Gioia del Colle air base and the 21st Gruppo of the 53rd Stormo at Cameri as a stop gap measure awaiting delivery of the Eurofighter. The only export customer for Tornado was Saudi Arabia which ordered 96 IDS (72 strike and 24 trainer) and 24 ADV (18 S and 6 T).
The Tornado production run came to an end in September 1988 after 992 aircraft, including the prototypes, had been built. In October 1986, Aeritalia (now Alenia Aeronautica) delivered the 1,000th and final set of Tornado variable geometry wings. This number includes spares and replacement items.

(Editor’s Note: Aeritalia assembled two Tornado prototypes. The first one (P.05 or P05), serial X-586 (later MM586), flew for the first time on December 5, 1975, at Turin/Caselle airport, in the hands of Cdr. Pietro Paolo Trevisan, then company’s Chief Test Pilot. On January 23, 1976, at the end of a test flight, the aircraft landed without landing gear due to a technical failure. Trevisan was unhurted but the Tornado underwent a long rebuilding activity before to fly again. Second prototype (P.09 o P09), serial X-587 (later MM587), made its maiden flight on February 5, 1977, piloted by Trevisan and Manlio Quarantelli. Today it is preserved at Cameri Air Base, for static display duties. On March 26, 1979, the only Italian pre-series Tornado (PS14) took the air for the first time, with Quarantelli and Egidio Nappi at the controls. This aircraft, which later received “series” serial MM7001 and code RS-01, was used by the IAF’s Flight Test Unit. From 2004, the aircraft is hosted by the Italian Air Force Museum in Vigna di Valle.)

In the picture: Panavia Tornado IDS "IS086" MM7087, first IAF’s “Basic IT Full MLU” aircraft, takes off from Turin/Caselle airport. (Aeromedia/M. Nerino)

(Aeromedia, July 2010)