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Germany eyeing F-35-Eurofighter combo for Tornado replacement program

F-35 could be part of German Air Force Panavia Tornado replacement
Illustration: German Air Force file photo of a Panavia Tornado (front) and Eurofighter (back) flying in formation

The new German government is said to be evaluating a new approach to the replacement of the German Air Force Panavia Tornado fleet, which has allowed the country to honor its nuclear sharing-agreement commitments with the United States since the 1980s.

To replace the ageing Tornado fleet, Germany had previously been expected to buy 45 Boeing-built Super Hornets that would be capable of taking over the Tornado fighter’s missions of suppress and destroy enemy air defenses (SEAD/DEAD) as well as the deployment of B61 tactical nuclear weapons, 20 of which are said to be stored in Büchel, Germany.

Despite reports from last year saying that former German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer confirmed the purchase of Super Hornets to US defense secretary Mark Esper, the country will now look into the possibility of buying the more modern F-35 fifth-generation fighter instead.

Plans laid out by the previous German defense ministry administration called for the purchase of 30 Super Hornets capable of delivering air-launched nuclear weapons, and 15 EA-18G Growler variant to take over the electronic warfare role that is also currently carried out by the PA-200 Tornado.

The new defense minister, Christine Lambrecht, is said to have set in motion plans to review the possibility of buying F-35s as well as the Eurofighter possibly taking over the electronic warfare role.

Despite a current fleet of 140 Eurofighters, alongside an order for an additional 38 airframes of the latest variant, Germany is forced to looked at other platforms since the certification of the Eurofighter for the nuclear strike has been deemed to be too complicated, costly, or time-consuming. The F-35 in its conventional take-off and landing variant, the F-35A, completed full weapon system demonstration with the B61-12 guided nuclear bomb in October last year.