A technical defect has forced Germany to ground nearly half of its fleet of Tornado aircraft, including six reconnaissance jets used in the US-led coalition purportedly targeting Daesh militants in Syria and Iraq.
In total, 39 of the country’s 85 Tornado aircraft have been banned from flying due to “loose screws on a monitor in the cockpit,” German news agency DPA quoted an unnamed spokesman for the Federal Defense Forces of Germany (Bundeswehr) as saying on Friday.
He went on to say that although the defect, which was found on Wednesday and made the ministry ground the affected jets on Thursday, was not complicated to fix, it was "not something one can fix on one's own.”
The official added that the aircraft, all ASST A3 versions, would not be allowed to fly until a solution was found by their manufacturer Airbus Defence and Space, and confirmed by experts at the ministry.
The Bundeswehr said in a statement on Thursday that it had grounded the affected aircraft “in order to avoid any risk to personnel or machinery.”
Six of the warplanes, which have been deployed to the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, had been used for surveillance flights in the so-called US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq since January.
The ASST A3 Tornado jets, which first entered into service between 1981 and 1992, can take high-quality photos and infrared images, even at night and in bad weather conditions, and transmit real time surveillance data to ground stations. The aging aircraft, however, are gradually being replaced by a more modern model, known as the Typhoon.
This is not the first time Germany faces a major embarrassment over its aircraft. Back in January, the army announced that the six Tornado warplanes were unable to carry out nocturnal missions due to a problem with the cockpit lights.
In another major setback in October last year, the external fuel tank of one of its Eurofighters fell off as it was preparing for takeoff.