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F-35 Luftwaffe ?

The German Armed Forces, Bundeswehr, decided 01 February 2019 against buying Lockheed Martin's F-35 stealth combat aircraft, capable of performing both ground-attacks and air missions. Germany will not be buying Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets as a replacement for the country’s existing fleet of Tornados. It will now have to pick between Airbus’ Eurofighter and Boeing’s F/A-18. The German Defence Ministry confirmed that the American-made F-35 jet is out of the multi-billion euro tender.

One factor influencing Germany's decision is its joint plans with France to develop a next-generation Franco-German “Future Combat Air System” (FCAS) between 2035 and 2040. If Germany had chosen the F-35 from Lockheed, it would have been an affront for France and endangered the FCAS project.

Christian Weiland, a former Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party member in Bad Kreuznach, told Sputnik that Berlin making this decision shows that it wants to strengthen the European market. "Presumably Germany wants to define European ‘sovereignty’ more clearly and clearly state that it wants to preserve sovereignty in defence and space. Maybe that's the reason regarding the F-35 tender. The effects are not clear, I suspect that it reduces the sales of manufacturers. The exact development remains to be seen. It is quite possible that Europe wants to become more independent of the USA. I think that's a wrong step. In particular, economically the US is a good trading partner. An economy always consists of buying and selling,” Weiland explained.

The Luftwaffe was looking for a replacement for the 80 Tornado aircraft from 2025. The new jets must also be able to carry nuclear weapons. Under the technical term "nuclear participation" Germany was involved in the NATO concept, according to which in Member States without their own nuclear weapons are where these weapons are kept.

The Tornadoes of the Luftwaffe are equipped to transport and drop US free-fall nuclear bombs in the so-called nuclear participation of Germany - if the US president releases them. Under the "nuclear participation" nuclear-weapon-free NATO states can use US nuclear weapons in the event of a war and practice this also in peacetime. Under the US supervision, 20 atomic bombs of the types B61-3 and B61-4 are stored in Büchel air base.

The German Air Force was considering replacement options for its aging Panavia Tornado – designed and brought to service during the Cold War – but finding suitable options has proved difficult. While the air force leadership has spoken out in favor of the new US fighter jet, the Ministry of Defense favors a further development of the Eurofighter. Some military chiefs, like Air Force Commander General Karl Muellner, advocate buying the F-35, while government officials favor an upgraded version of Joint Strike Fighter’s European contender – the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Though no official tender has been announced so far, a contract to replace the German Tornadoes was believed expected to be completed by around 2030. The F-35 – the most expensive defense program in the world so far – gained notoriety for its major setbacks, including reports on reliability issues, and faulty avionics, software, fire control systems and safety equipment. Despite this, Australia, Israel, Italy, and Japan have already received deliveries of the aircraft. The US Air Force was the biggest F-35 operator.

In Germany, the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr was equipped with two fighter aircraft types (as of 2015). The Eurofighter, which was used by the armed forces for air combat and ground target combat, and the MRCA PA-200 Tornado for anti-aircraft air defense and electronic air reconnaissance. When the first EuroFighter were introduced in the Air Force, the models were designed for aerial combat. The Eurofighter was once designed for pure aerial combat. But now he gets a destructive ability: By upgrading, it can carry 500 kilogram heavy GBU-48 bombs.

It was remarkable that still in 2007 Germany was identified by Lockheed Martin officials as one of the possible buyers in presentations to the industry in 2007. Some presentations were made in Germany after professional interest showed by Germany. However, this was commercial wishful thinking. Germany did not seem to be a JSF opportunity after the successful introduction of the Eurofighter Typhoon.

When the Defense Ministry submitted its aviation strategy in 2016, it was clear: The air force was to receive in the future as a replacement for the Tornado, a new fighter aircraft to engage targets on the ground. A short time later, the Airbus armaments group presented its ideas for a new fighter jet. The new model was to operate around 2035 in conjunction with drones. The Luftwaffe was considering the purchase of Lockheed Martin's F-35 JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) . The project was indeed by far the most expensive current armaments project of the USA. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates the total cost of just under 2,500 copies of the US forces to the unimaginable value of $ 1.3 trillion.

In fact, there was growing interest in US development. By 2017, there were eleven user states. In Europe, Italy was the location where the first F-35 model was produced outside the US, as well as Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. Sectors of industry expect that Spain will also choose the F-35 model.

The Luftwaffe still uses the Tornado model which had its first flight 40 years ago and was developed by Germany, Great Britain and Italy. But the former partners of Great Britain and Italy have long since opted for the F-35 model.

Germany, on the other hand, will not be able to manage the development of a European Tornado successor. Thus, after the upcoming expiry of the Eurofighter production, Germany's expertise in fighter jet construction would be lost. In the spring 2017, Dirk Hoke, Airbus's defense chief, brought a joint Franco-German development into play.

There were no decisions, but interesting developments. The Luftwaffe was supposed to have an interest in the secret data and the sensor technology of the F-35 fighter jet. According to the classification of the military, the Tornado was referred to as the third-generation combat aircraft, the fourth generation of the Eurofighter and the fifth generation of the F-35.

In the medium term, the Luftwaffe planned to replace the Tornado with a next- generation weapon system under the keyword FCAS (Future Combat Air System).

First, the Luftwaffe apparently wanted to assess the capabilities of the F-35 model. The advantage of the F-35 jet was that it was already flying. How military complete new military developments are risky, becomes clear at the military transport A400M . This was one of the reasons why the Luftwaffe, in addition to the Airbus proposal, was also testing the Lockheed variants.

In a letter to the American side, the planning department asked the Bundeswehr to provide access to data about the aircraft. A decision on the replacement of the so-called fourth generation of combat aircraft in the years 2025 to 2035 had not yet fallen, however, according to the letter of the Luftwaffen-Planungsstab. First of all, it was a matter of gathering the necessary information so that the Bundeswehr could take a picture. This was why access to confidential information, especially in the F-35 sensor, information management and combat capabilities of Lockheed Martin Corp, was desirable.

Politicians in Berlin needed more time to decide how to replace an ageing fleet that must be nuclear capable. The Bundeswehr faces pressure to purchase European-made planes, though it favors American models. A German military plan to buy new US warplanes to replace the ageing Tornado fighter jet fleet was delayed by Angela Merkel's coalition partners, the center-left SPD, on 31 January 2019. Conservative Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen had hoped to lay out a procurement program to replace the Tornado, worth over €15 billion ($17 billion), by the end of 2018. But SPD politicians say they need more information and time. The SPD's Wolfgang Hellmich, head of the parliamentary defense committee, said there was no rush to replace the Tornado fleet, as it was set to continue operating until 2035. Military officials had warned though that flying the ageing Tornadoes beyond 2030 could cost as much as €8 billion, due to the extra maintenance required.

Two key issues with the Tornado's replacement are that it must have the capability to carry a nuclear weapon and would have to be certified by the US, according to NATO rules. US defense contractor Lockheed Martin's F-35 plane, along with Airbus' Eurofighter Typhoon and the Boeing F/A-18, was in the running to succeed Germany's ageing Tornado. According to newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), Germany's air force wanted the US-made F-35 jet, as it fulfilled the technical requirements.

But politicians in Berlin saw things differently. The deputy leader of the SPD parliamentary party, Rolf Mützenich, told SZ that the decision to replace the Tornado should also be evaluated in "the context of the arms race and the crises between NATO and Russia." "In view of the foreseeable termination of the INF Treaty and the reintroduction of nuclear threats and warfare strategies, there must be no hasty decision," Mützenich warned of the Tornado's replacement.

Pressure to choose a European-made plane has also come from neighboring France, which would see the F-35 purchase as an affront. Paris had warned Berlin that choosing the US-made plane would run counter to and derail plans to develop a new Franco-German jet fighter by 2040. German defense ministry sources said the army will decide to replace the ageing Tornadoes with either the US-made Boeing F/A-18 or the Airbus' Eurofighter, but it will also consider the possibility of buying both planes.

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Page last modified: 07-02-2019 18:56:40 ZULU