Military Aviation

In a Blow for Boeing, Germany drops the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G and Buys 35 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Stealth Fighters and 15 Eurofighter Jets equipped for Electronic Warfare

Announcing a first big defence deal since Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged a 100-billion-euro upgrade to the military in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany said on Mar. 14, 2022 that will buy 35 US F-35 fighter jets to replace its ageing Tornado fleet.

Announcing a first big defence deal since Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged a 100-billion-euro upgrade to the military in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany said on Mar. 14, 2022 that will buy 35 US F-35 fighter jets to replace its ageing Tornado fleet.

According to Reuters, the move appeared to be part of a tectonic shift in German security policy, including a pledge to reach NATO’s 2% target for defence spending, after years of accusations that Germany was too dovish towards Moscow in compensation for its Nazi past.

Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said in a statement that “After looking thoroughly into all available options, I decided to initiate the purchase of F-35 aircraft as replacement for the Tornado in the role of nuclear sharing.”

As already explained the Tornado fighter bomber is the only aircraft currently in service with the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) capable of carrying US nuclear bombs, that are stored in Germany, in case of a conflict. But the German air force has been flying the Tornado attack aircraft since the 1980s, and Berlin is planning to phase it out between 2025 and 2030.

Referring to the fact that many other nations have ordered the stealth jet built by Lockheed Martin, Lambrecht said that the F-35 offers unique opportunities for cooperation with NATO allies and other European partners alike.

As previously reported a German defence source told Reuters on Feb. 3, 2022 that the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) was moving toward buying the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to replace its ageing Tornado in the role of nuclear sharing. However, a final decision had not been taken yet.

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According to a confidential document sent to lawmakers to inform them of the German government plans, Berlin will also purchase 15 Eurofighter jets equipped for electronic warfare, a capability yet to be developed by Franco-German producer Airbus.

The F-35 buy will be a blow for Boeing, whose F-18 was favoured by former German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to replace the Tornado.

In April 2020 in fact then German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told the US government that Berlin has given clearance for the Luftwaffe to acquire 45 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft. The service planned to replace 90 Panavia Tornado Interdiction and Strike (IDS)/Electronic Combat Reconnaissance (ECR) aircraft with 85 new platforms from 2025.

The 30 F/A-18E/F multirole and 15 EA-18G electronic attack (EA) jets would have enabled the Luftwaffe to fulfill its airborne nuclear strike and EA requirements within the required timeframe. The remaining 40 aircraft would comprise additional Eurofighters to add to the 143 already in service (of these, 38 early Tranche 1 aircraft are set to be replaced by the same number of Tranche 3 aircraft under Project Quadriga).

The decision to go with the F-35 could also upset France. As already reported in 2019 in fact defence officials eliminated the F-35 from the competition to replace the Tornado because picking an American plane would weaken the case for having such weapons be made by European companies in the future such as the Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) program [that as the New Generation Fighter (NGF) should be ready in the 2040s], led by Airbus and Dassault.

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Photo credit: Airwolfhound from Hertfordshire, UK via Wikipedia

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.

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