Germany should buy both Eurofighter and F-35 to replace Tornado fighter bombers


By Dario Leone
Jan 10 2018
Share this article

“One possible solution could be that the nuclear and conventional roles now both met by the Tornado could be split between a relatively small F-35 fleet and a larger Eurofighter fleet,” Douglas Barrie, IISS

Douglas Barrie of IISS says Germany needs the F-35 in order to fulfill the nuclear deterrence role under NATO as the Eurofighter is not certified to drop the American B61 thermonuclear weapon.

“Rather than asking what aircraft type is needed, greater clarity may be achieved by asking what roles the aircraft will be required to carry out,” Barrie says. “In Luftwaffe service, the Tornado provides the ability to deliver both conventional and nuclear payloads. The latter role is part of NATO’s dual-capable aircraft capability, with the Tornado equipped to carry the B61 gravity bomb. If Germany intends to continue to fulfil this mission, whichever type is selected to replace the Tornado will also need to be able to meet this role.”

Modifying the Eurofighter for nuclear bombing will not only be expensive, the certification process will drag beyond 2025, when the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) wants to start phasing out the Tornado.

To reconcile with the German defense ministry’s demands to buy the Eurofighter, a possible solution is to buy a small fleet of F-35s with a larger number of Eurofighters. “The former aircraft would meet the nuclear-delivery requirement with the B61-12 bomb and provide a low-observable platform capable of conventional weapons delivery, while a proportion of the air-to-surface missions now addressed by the Tornado could be migrated to the Typhoon,” Barrie points out.

RAF Typhoon print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 No. 29(R) Squadron, ZK308 / TP-V – 2014

The ministry’s position in fact appears to contradict that of Luftwaffe (German Air Force) Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Karl Muellner who had indicated that his preference is the Lockheed Martin F-35. “The Tornado replacement needs to be fifth-generation aircraft that can be detected as late as possible, if at all. It must be able to identify targets from a long way off and to target them as soon as possible,” he said.

Instead in a letter to a Greens lawmaker who had inquired about the deliberations, the ministry said the F-35 and Boeing’s F-15 and F/A-18 fighters were secondary options.

Germany should buy both Eurofighter and F-35 to replace Tornado fighter bombers

However, regardless of which aircraft will be purchased, Germany is expanding its cooperation with France on defense and security to develop a new European fighter aimed not only to replace the Tornado, but in the longer term, also the Typhoon and Rafale fighters. “Under its Future Combat Air System (FCAS) work, it had initially looked to introduce a new combat aircraft into service from 2035, with the emphasis on the air-to-surface role, as a Tornado replacement. As thinking has developed during the course of 2017, and the F-35 has found increasing favour, Germany’s longer-term combat-aircraft requirement has placed greater emphasis on the air-to-air role for the Typhoon’s successor. The notional entry into service date has also moved to 2045. The FCAS study work is now being carried out in collaboration with France. Moving back the entry into service date aligns more closely with France’s requirement for a Rafale successor, while also providing a more palatable gap between the cost of the possible introduction of the F-35 and the acquisition of a new fighter aircraft,” Barrie concludes.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Artwork courtesy of

Share this article

Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this article

Share this article
Share this article

Always up to date! News and offers delivered directly to you!

Get the best aviation news, stories and features from The Aviation Geek Club in our newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

Error: Contact form not found.

Share this article
Back to top
My Agile Privacy
This website uses technical and profiling cookies. Clicking on "Accept" authorises all profiling cookies. Clicking on "Refuse" or the X will refuse all profiling cookies. By clicking on "Customise" you can select which profiling cookies to activate. In addition, this site installs Google Analytics in version 4 (GA4) with anonymous data transmission via proxy. By giving your consent, the data will be sent anonymously, thus protecting your privacy. We and our selected ad partners can store and/or access information on your device, such as cookies, unique identifiers, browsing data. You can always choose the specific purposes related to profiling by accessing the advertising preferences panel, and you can always withdraw your consent at any time by clicking on "Manage consent" at the bottom of the page.

List of some possible advertising permissions:

You can consult: our list of advertising partners, the Cookie Policy and the Privacy Policy.
Warning: some page functionalities could not work due to your privacy choices