Italy Moves to Complete Tornado Fleet Mid-Life Upgrades
In late December 2010, the Italian Air Force signed a EUR 96 million ($127.7 million) contract with the Panavia consortium to begin upgrading another 25 of Italy’s strike fighters. The contract will see 15 more Tornado ECR and 10 more Tornado IDS planes brought to the latest RET 8 Mid-Life upgrade (MLU) configuration. The total cost is actually about EUR 161 million, as EUR 65 million has already been spent on government furnished equipment that will go into the upgrades. Most of the work will be carried out by Finmeccanica’s Alenia Aeronautica in Turin, Italy, with deliveries running until 2015.
RET 8 will complete the Italian MLU program, and the end result will be a 58 plane Tornado MLU fleet which could remain on duty beyond 2025, out of the original 99 planes delivered in ECR and IDS configurations…
The 25 RET 8 planes will join 15 MLU RET 7 fighters being delivered to the 6th Wing in Ghedi AB from Dec 20/10 to mid-2012, and 18 MLU RET 6 aircraft that began re-delivery in 2004 and are now in the fleet.
The initial RET 6 upgrade, aka “Italian Mid-Life Update (MLU) 1st Upgrade standard” includes navigation, communications, and flight safety-related equipment improvements; night vision goggle-compatible lighting modifications; and new weaponry. According to Panavia, RET 8 adds improved display systems, digital video and data recording, multi-mode receiver, digital maps, MIDS (Link 16) inserts, and a shift from partial to complete integration with RAFAEL’s RecceLITE reconnaissance pods, and immediate readiness for future weapons like the AARGM anti-radar missile and the Small Diameter Bomb.