The Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 (AKG 51) was founded at airbase Erding in South Germany on 7 July 1959. The unit was equipped with 36 Republic RF-84F Thunderflash aircraft from Waffenschule der Luftwaffe 50 and took all of these aircraft with them when the first move , on 5 May 1960, was to be completed. Manching was the new home base from this date. The unit was nicknamed “Immelman” on 21 April 1961, named after world war one Germans flying ace Max Immelmann. During world war one Max Immelmann was shot down on 3 June 1915 above France but managed to land safely behind German lines. On 18 June 1916 Immelmann died while flying over France. The exact cause of his crash is unknown, some say he was shot down by own ground defences, others say his machinegun had a malfunction and he broke his own propeller and the English said that he was shot down by an English pilot. For his flights during the world war he deserved multiple awards, including the highest German award which was handed over by the emperor Willem II. Also an aerial manoeuvre is named the Immelmann, half a loop followed by a half roll once the peak of the half loop has been reached, this to quickly change direction.
At the end of 1963 AKG 51 faced the task of transitioning from the Thunderflash to the RF-104G Starfighter. The unit operated the Starfighter until 1971. From 20 January 1971 the unit was the first Luftwaffe unit to equip with the RF-4E. By mid-1972 the this change was completed and the wing was under NATO-command by that time again. Operating this type the unit achieved some milestones during the years. On 19 April 1977 the unit was the first within NATO to complete 50.000 flying hours without losses. By mid-1982 the unit had flown 100.000 hours on the RF-4E and reached 250.000 flying hours in total on 25 January 1984.
Mid-1993 the unit was disbanded and dispose of the RF-4E. On 1 January 1994 the unit was re-established at Schleswig – Jagel. From Schleswig – Jagel the unit was to operate the Tornado IDS in the reconnaissance role. They took over the Tornado’s from Marinefliegergeschwader 1 (MFG 1) and adopted the unit markings of Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 (AKG 52). In 2005 Marinefliegergeschwader 2 (MFG 2) based in Eggebek was disbanded and AKG 51 was additionally tasked with the role of Anti-surface warfare (ASuW).
Moreover in April 2013 Jagdbombergeschwader 32 (JBG 32) stationed on airbase Lechfeld was also disbanded and AKG 51 took over the role of Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) along with 20 Tornados ECR.
On the first of October 2013 the unit was renamed from Aufklärungsgeschwader (Reconnassaince Wing) to Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 51 (Tactical Air Wing) now operating in the roles of Tactical Air Reconnaissance (TAR) , SEAD and ASuW.
TLG 51 operates Tornado IDS, Tornado ECR and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) IAI Heron. The IAI Herons are leased and operates in and from Afghanistan.
The Tornado ECR’s are used for the tactical reconnaissance role and TLG51 has two reconnaissance ground stations that can be deployed on overseas operations. The Tornado aircraft are equipped with a reconnaissance pod mounted under the fuselage. Depending on the variant used, this pod with optical and infrared sensors can reconnoitre targets both day and night. The Tornado IDS is equipped with various weapon ejector racks and appropriate armament. The German Air Force has also a training version of this Tornado IDS which is called Tornado IDS (T) and the T stands for twin stick.
The German Air Force had a total of 290 Tornado’s flying within 8 units. At this moment there are around 80 Tornado’s still flying within 3 units. TLG 51 at Schleswig – Jagel, TLG 33 at Büchel and test unit WTD 61 at Manching – Ingolstadt. Based at Schleswig – Jagel are around 20 Tornado’s IDS from which 9 are IDS (T)’s and around 20 Tornado’s ECR.
The Authors of Lowpass Aviation.com would like to thank the personnel of the German Air Force and the Staff of the Ministry of Defence of Germany for their hospitality and their time and help during our visit to Schleswig Jagel Air Base.