F-35 fighter can expand European dominance with new customers in sight

US stealth aircraft has collected consecutive victories in competitions on the continent

The rearmament of European countries, accelerated after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has caused a growing demand for fighter jets. And the big winner so far has been the F-35 Lightnining II.

Lockheed Martin’s stealth fighter collects victories in recent competitions, such as Switzerland, Finland and, recently, Germany. Now the US planemaker is targeting two more new potential customers in the Old Continent, Greece and the Czech Republic.

Lockheed Martin’s vice president for the F-35, J.R. McDonald told reporters at the ILA Air Show in Berlin that “You’ll hear more about it soon,” regarding new European orders.

The Greek Air Force is revamping its fighter fleet by purchasing used and new Rafale models. But the country claims to have an F-35 squadron from 2028.

The Czech Republic has been the subject of rumors about a possible order for 40 F-35As since last year. The Air Force currently operates 14 Saab Gripen C/D fighter jets on a lease basis, with a contract valid until 2027 (and possible extension until 2029).

In Europe, the F-35 is in service in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy and Norway and should be delivered to Denmark from 2023. Poland, meanwhile, expects to have the fighter in 2024 and Belgium, in 2025

Germany, the stealth fighter’s newest customer, is expected to start taking delivery of the aircraft as early as 2026, McDonald said. Another country pointed out as a potential interested party is Spain, which may order the F-35B variant of V/STOL operation, to replace the AV-8B Harrier II.

FCAS (Airbus)

The successful career of the US fighter seems to be linked precisely to the fact that it offers capabilities that its European rivals such as the Rafale, Gripen NG and Eurofighter Typhoon do not yet have.

Its cost of operation has also been pointed out as more attractive, in addition to the modular platform, which allows for technical upgrades of equipment and weapons in the future.

Meanwhile, European 6th generation fighter programs are advancing at a slow pace and with frequent conflicts in the case of the Franco-German project. Airbus and Dassault, for example, have disputed the leading role in the FCAS (Future Combat Air System), which will give rise to the fighter to be used by Germany, France and Spain.

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