How dangerous is it to be a military officer

Bundeswehr against IS How dangerous is the tornado mission?

Six Bundeswehr tornadoes are relocated to the Turkish NATO base Incirlik. From January, the reconnaissance planes are to fly over the IS area in Syria. How great is the danger for the soldiers?

The German frigate "Augsburg" protects the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, and six Bundeswehr tornadoes are relocated to the Turkish NATO base Incirlik. From January these reconnaissance planes are to fly over the IS area in Syria. With their aerial photographs, the German pilots support other nations that are flying attacks on alleged IS positions in Syria. The IS will of course try to prevent that. How dangerous is this mission for the people in these tornadoes?

Conversation with Thomas Wassmann, Chairman of the Association of Crews for Jet-Powered Fighter Aircraft - he flew in fighter jets as a weapons system officer

How does such a reconnaissance flight over Syria work?

In contrast to other operational roles, the reconnaissance aircraft are usually on their own - so they do not have to operate together with other aircraft. Before the flight they are assigned one or more targets, which they then fly to and spy on, spy on, explore accordingly. They plan their route to their destination and back again - usually not the same route so that it cannot be tracked. So you fly off at the starting point, fly off your route, fly or explore the destinations and go back accordingly.

According to the air force, two tornadoes from Büchel in the Eifel are said to be there, with ten to 15 men and women. The soldiers should each stay in Turkey for at least eight weeks.

IS will try to shoot these machines down. How big is the danger for the tornado pilots?

Since I am not aware that the IS has extensive anti-aircraft missile systems, I assume that the tornadoes should fly at a relatively high altitude and accordingly can carry out these flights relatively safely, since, as I said, there is no enemy anti-aircraft defense, enemy planes to fight planes - air-to-air fighters like our Eurofighter, for example.

If it becomes necessary - due to a technical defect, for example - for the two people on board, the pilot and the weapons system officer, to get out of the vehicle, then it will be relatively hairy over the IS area, right?

For self-defense in the event of an attack, the German soldiers are to be equipped with infrared missiles and decoys.

Basically, first of all: the imposition is pretty, I don't mean to say perfect, but it is relatively automatic. You also train how to behave on landing and how to behave after landing, how to camouflage yourself, how to survive.

However, it is so - since the IS really does not adhere to any international rules - if you should be caught by the IS, it will certainly be very uncomfortable and we will certainly see ugly pictures.

Because the IS fighters are proud of their 'catch' and accordingly spread it internationally in the media.


Do the pilots who board these machines and the weapons system officers suppress this danger? Or do they say that this residual risk is something I have to accept, that is my job?

As you said, it is ultimately the profession that you have trained for years and still do. You certainly deal with it - especially those who have families - in the run-up to the deployment and certainly on the ground. However, when it comes to planning and executing the mission, that alone suppresses the fact that you are so busy that you have no time to take care of it. Because, on the other hand, you would be neglecting the job and people are too professional to deal with it during the flight.

There is a lot of discussion about whether this mission is of any use at all - six Bundeswehr tornadoes over Syria. What is your opinion?

In principle, it is not up to us or me to criticize the Federal Government's decision. Nevertheless, one actually heard few complaints in advance that the information was insufficient. With the scouts and the tanker, we ultimately send support measures that do not intervene in the actual fight. We're not killing or destroying anything with it. So a typically German contribution: We’re in it somehow, but not really.

The interview was conducted by SWR moderator Stefan Eich.

Online: Heidi Keller and Christine Trück

As of December 10, 2015, 3:08 p.m.