German Tornado operations return to Nörvenich after more than a decade

Luftwaffe (German Air Force) Panavia Tornado IDS ground attack/strike aircraft operations will return to Nörvenich Air Base for the first time in 12 years, as examples from Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 33 (TaktLwG 33, Tactical Air Force Wing 33) prepare to relocate to the base as urgent renovation work takes place at Büchel.

In total, 25 TaktLwG 33-operated Tornado IDS aircraft – along with 450 military and civil personnel – will temporarily relocate from Büchel to Nörvenich (both located in western Germany) from June 13. The move comes after urgent repairs were required at Büchel to guarantee safe flight operations from the Luftwaffe base. This work is expected to conclude in 2026 and will include the resurfacing of Büchel’s runway and taxiways, with renovations being made to the base’s lighting and waste water infrastructure.

German AF TaktLwG 33 Tornado IDS over Iraq 22-02-17 [USAF/Senior Airman Tyler Woodward]
A Luftwaffe-operated Panavia Tornado IDS (serial 45+92) from TaktLwG 33 separates from a US Air Force (USAF)-operated McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender after receiving fuel during a combat mission over Iraq in support of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve on February 22, 2017. USAF/Senior Airman Tyler Woodward

According to the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces), “a cessation of the flight operations of the Tornado of [TaktLwG 33] was not an option against the background of the mission to defend the country and the [NATO] alliance.” During its time at Nörvenich, the temporarily relocated TaktLwG 33 aircraft will conduct flight operations alongside the resident TaktLwG 31 ‘Boelcke’ and its complement of Eurofighter EF-2000 multi-role fighters.

In a bid to mitigate any increase in aircraft noise around Nörvenich, the Luftwaffe has established “flexible relocation options” for the detached Tornados, allowing for the aircraft to be forward deployed to other predetermined airfields, when necessary. Additionally, the German air arm has made various adjustments to the approach and departure procedures (under visual flight conditions) at Nörvenich, which have been implemented to help mitigate increasing noise levels of aircraft operating around the base at low altitude.

The Tornado IDS first entered Luftwaffe service in 1980 and remains operational with two wings: TaktLwG 33 and TaktLwG 51 ‘Immelmann’ – which is based at Schleswig-Jagel Air Base in northern Germany. Starting in 2025, the type will be progressively withdrawn from German service, before it is eventually replaced by the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)-configured Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter later this decade.