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Germany joining F-35 operators’ club

Germany F-35 purchase
Illustration: US Air Force file photo of an F-35A fighter

The German government has settled for the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 stealth fighter as the successor for the Panavia Tornado fighter.

The decision to buy the F-35 over other options, which included the purchase of 30 Super Hornets for the employment of air-launched nuclear weapons, was reported by the wire services on Monday. An official announcement from the government is expected to follow soon.

According to German news agency dpa, Germany will buy up to 35 F-35 jets to replace the 40-year-old Tornado fleet, which has allowed the country to honor its nuclear sharing-agreement commitments with the United States since the 1980s.

While the F-35s will be taking over the Tornado’s nuclear role, an estimated 15 Eurofighters could be purchased to take over the electronic warfare role that is also currently carried out by the PA-200 Tornado.

Confirming the purchase on March 14, the German defense ministry said the would be further developed for the electronic combat role.

“This means that important key technology in Germany and the EU is retained. In addition, we are securing a strong German role in the future FCAS system,” Lieutenant General Ingo Gerharz, Inspector of the German Air Force, said.

The defense ministry added that the aim will be to replace the 93-airframe strong Tornado fleet by 2030.

Despite a current fleet of 140 Eurofighters, alongside an order for an additional 38 airframes of the latest variant, Germany was forced to look 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.

With its decision to purchase the F-35, Germany is joining several neighbors that have done the same. The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, and Poland all have, or will have, the Joint Strike Fighter on order. Other European air forces that have opted for the fighter include Finland, Norway, and the United Kingdom.