Preparations at Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51
(Source: German Armed Forces; dated March 16, 2007)
JAGEL, Germany --- After the Bundestag decision of 09 March to send Tornados to Afghanistan, a media day was arranged at Jagel on 13 March in order to explain the capabilities of Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51 "Immelmann" (TRW 51 "I") to the public and to permit an insight into the deployment preparations currently taking place.
Numerous press representatives followed the invitation by Wing Commander Colonel Thorsten Poschwatta and took the opportunity to look behind the scenes of TRW 51 "I".
At the beginning of the media day, Colonel Poschwatta presented his wing consisting of 47 Tornados. He particularly emphasized the fact that the contribution to air reconnaissance and air photo interpretation for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is not the first mission of this type for TRW 51 "I". From 1995 to 2001, the flying unit already participated in several missions abroad within the scope of IFOR, KFOR, SFOR and Allied Force operations.
However, the unique unit from Schleswig-Holstein has also provided official assistance to other authorities and institutions, like for example, during the Rhine and Elbe flood disasters in recent years.
High-Performance Cameras for Air Reconnaissance
The wing used the opportunity to present the different areas of air reconnaissance and air photo interpretation to the media representatives. First came the optronic engineers, a rare combination of electronician and technician, who attend to optical equipment. These specialists are responsible for technical maintenance of the recce pods.
The pods concerned are containers which are mounted on the bottom side of the Tornado and serve the purpose of accommodating two high-performance camcameras and one infrared camera. These cameras are then capable of taking photos from low and medium heights with a very high resolution.
"We can take a sharp photo of a license plate on a car from a height of 1000 feet" said optronic engineer Frank H. Asked which problems he expected in Afghanistan, the senior master sergeant answered: "The dust may be straining for the equipment, but we are well prepared."
Quick Interpretation Is Required
The air photo interpretation squadron showed how the results of the photos taken in flight are further processed. After the Tornados have returned from their mission, the films of the cameras must be developed and interpreted within 45 minutes according to NATO requirements.
At that time, however, the results of the infrared camera have already been interpreted because they are digitally available. Subsequently, the air photo interpretation squadron prepares a report in English, which is handed over to the customer, that is HQ ISAF in the impending mission in Afghanistan.
Restrictive and confidential handling of these data will be ensured by the German Element of HQ ISAF. According to the squadron commander, neither the geographical nor the topographical conditions in Afghanistan "pose any particular problems" to the experienced air photo interpreters.
"We Embark on This Mission with Professional Calmness"
Finally, the Tornado, which makes air reconnaissance and air photo interpretation possible, was presented by pilots, technicians and the wing commander himself. In the process, pilots and maintenance personnel answered the technical and also the personal questions of the media representatives. "It is a special challenge for us to apply the frequently trained procedures under operational conditions, but we will embark on this mission with professional calmness", said Tornado pilot Alexander S. when asked for his personal opinion about this mission abroad.
Wing Commander Thorsten Poschwatta summed things up as follows: "We are well trained, have practiced hard for what is to be expected and are optimally prepared due to the missions abroad we have already performed. This was also taken into account by NATO when it specifically requested our capabilities and skills. We are confident of being able to accomplish our mission professionally and thoroughly as required." (ends)
About the Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51
(Source: German Armed Forces; dated March 16, 2007)
The German Air Force exercises command and control over one reconnaissance wing which is Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51 "Immelmann". It is the only German Air Force flying unit which has a manned tactical air reconnaissance capability.
The wing is stationed at the garrisons of Jagel and Kropp. The air base is located at Jagel and the Kai-Uwe von Hassel Barracks are located in the municipality of Kropp.
The reconnaissance wing is provided with 46 Tornado all-weather combat aircraft, advanced reconnaissance sensor systems and two deployable reconnaissance (recce) ground stations. Since 01 January 2005, the wing has also been tasked with performing the naval air warfare role which was taken over from the German Navy.
The Tornado aircraft are equipped with reconnaissance sensors which are carried in a pod mounted under the fuselage. Depending on the variant used, the reconnaissance pod contains two optical cameras and one infrared sensor which allow military targets to be reconnoitered with high-resolution images from low and medium altitudes, during day and night and in poor visibility conditions.
Since the data are recorded directly on a magnetic tape, all flight parameters are quickly accessible and, in addition, the infrared images taken can be processed digitally. The infrared sensor can detect even the slightest differences in temperature. The mobile recce ground station is used for subsequent air photograph interpretation.
For self-protection/defense, the Tornado aircraft is equipped with enhanced radar warning equipment, deception jammers, chaff/flare dispenser equipment, two gun assemblies and, in addition, air-to-air guided missiles.
Reconnaissance Pods and Equipment
(Source: German Air Force; undated background material)
The reconnaissance pod for the Tornado aircraft is mounted to the centerline pylon under the Tornado fuselage. Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51 "Immelmann" has 30 of these reconnaissance pods at its disposal. These pods, often generally referred to as recce pods, are operated in two different variants.
Each reconnaissance pod variant is equipped with two optical cameras and one infrared line-scanner (infrared sensor) which can be adapted to the individual mission profile in a modular manner.
The recce pod is provided with three sensor installation positions. A tri-lens camera (objective with three lens elements) for taking serial frames can be installed in the front position viewing at an oblique angle into the direction of flight or in the center position with a vertical direction of view. In the center position, also a serial frame penta-lens camera (objective with five lens elements) can be installed with a vertical direction of view. It views perpendicular to the direction of flight from horizon to horizon.
The flight data recorded additionally on the film are read out via a camera in the recce ground station and allow automatic matching of the displayed map with the image section selected on the film. The infrared line scanner is installed in the rear position. This infrared sensor can detect even the slightest differences in temperature.
The recce pod measures 66.3 cm in height, 63.5 cm in width and is 4.313 m long. It's mission weight is 545 kg.
Similar to the recce pod, the telelens pod is equipped with three camera positions. The front section of the recce pod is modified and its external structure extended to accommodate a telelens camera with a long focal length. In addition to the telelens camera in the front position, which can be panned perpendicular to the direction of flight, either a trilens camera or a pentalens camera can be installed in the center position.
The third position is used in both reconnaissance pods for installation of the infrared line scanner. It consists of the scanner-receiver unit that detects the thermal radiation of objects on the ground, converts it into video signals and records these signals by means of a digital tape recorder.
Before the pods are employed, the sensor complement is tailored to the individual reconnaissance mission, taking into account operational aspects.
The telelens pod is 4.637 m long, 65.0 cm high and 60.0 cm wide. Its mission weight is of 710 kg.
Recce Ground Station
Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51 "Immelmann" has two reconnaissance (recce) ground stations that are accommodated altogether in 50 containers. If four Tornado aircraft are deployed, at least 15 containers and two generators will be required.
The recce ground station provides several photo interpretation workplaces optimized for the quick and mission-oriented interpretation of the imagery available. However, before the film can be interpreted, it must be processed. Thereafter, an experienced photo-interpreter makes a selection from the imagery in accordance with the mission and details the interpreter teams.
These teams interpret the imagery and prepare a mission review report. Photographs will be attached to this report, if required. Whether and, if so, which types of photographs are required and in which form they must be provided can be seen from the individual mission order.
The reconnaissance (recce) cycle is a process which involves servicemen and women from all areas of Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51 "Immelmann" and can be subdivided basically into five phases:
- The reconnaissance cycle begins with mission tasking. This identifies the area to be reconnoitered and further requirements set by the tasking agency.
- The aircrews prepare the flight plan to accomplish the mission.
- Subsequent to the flight preparations, the reconnaissance flight is performed.
- This is followed by the actual interpretation of the data collected during the flight.
- Upon completion of a mission, a report is prepared and forwarded to the tasking agency.
The work of the personnel employed at the air photographic reconnaissance squadron begins when the Tornado aircraft of Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51 "Immelmann" land on the operating base. Their task is to gain the information essential for the tasking agency from the footage and data material provided and convert this information into a mission review report.
For this purpose, the wet films are processed in the laboratory, while the digital data of the infrared line scanner (infrared sensor) are already being screened. As soon as film processing is completed, the film sections showing the areas to be reconnoitered are cut out and distributed to the photo-interpreter teams. Then, the interpreters start their precise work taking into account even the smallest detail.
Under high time pressure and supported by the aircrews, who contribute their own visual impressions, the interpreters must detect and exactly identify the objects to be reconnoitered. The interpretation result is reported and forwarded in English language.
The report shall be as complete and comprehensive as is required to enable the tasking agency to make an assessment of the object reconnoitered already on the basis of the information contained in the text.