In January 2019, Germany defense officials eliminated the F-35 from the competition because picking an American plane would weaken the case for having such weapons be made by European companies in the future.
German media Süddeutsche Zeitung has reported that the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet has an advantage over the Airbus Eurofighter Typhoon in the country’s fighter competition to replace the Tornado.
Süddeutsche Zeitung says getting the Eurofighter certified to drop nuclear bombs will take between three and five years longer than the Boeing fighter.
Germany has kept a subset of its approximately 80-strong Tornado fleet equipped to carry out the NATO nuclear-sharing doctrine. That means in the case of a hypothetical atomic war, German pilots would load their aircraft with U.S. nuclear bombs and drop them on their intended targets at the behest of the alliance.
As explained by Defense News, while Germany’s nuclear mission periodically comes up as a source of controversy in the country, previous governments have left it untouched, portraying the largely symbolic assignment as a vital element of trans-Atlantic relations.
A spokeswoman for the Defence Ministry in Berlin said that American and German defense officials have been in “continuous conversations” on the issue.
Germany will announce a winner between the F-18 and the Eurofighter Typhoon in 2020. In January 2019, defense officials eliminated the F-35 from the competition 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, led by Airbus and Dassault.
According to Airbus if Germany selects the Eurofighter as a Tornado replacement, it would be easier for companies on the continent to transition to an eventual development of the German-Franco-Spanish platform.
“We want to treat this question jointly,” German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters during her visit to Washington on Sept. 23, putting the spotlight back on the prospect of an American buy. She added that Germany wants a “gap-less” continuation of the Tornado’s capabilities, adding that she envisions a “tight schedule” for the replacement.
Airbus, meanwhile, doesn’t see the need to rush. With 10 years or so left before ditching the Tornado, the reported nuclear-certification time seems to still fit into the overall replacement schedule, spokesman Florian Taitsch told Defense News.
Taitsch added that it should be expected that, when given a choice, the Trump administration with its “America First” doctrine would be keen to push American-made weapons over European ones.
“For us, the situation hasn’t changed,” he concluded.