The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) announced the acquisition of 35 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter jets as replacements for part of its Panavia Tornado attack jets.
The information had been anticipated by two sources interviewed by Reuters. The purchase of US fighter jets has nothing to do with the events triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The F-35 offers unique potential for cooperation with our NATO allies and other partners in Europe,” Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said in Berlin as she announced the Tornado’s successor.
The German Air Force needs an aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons to replace older Tornados, which are expected to be decommissioned by 2030.
In addition to the F-35, Germany was also evaluating a proposal from Boeing, which offered the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, in addition to the promise of partnership with companies in the country to support the fighter fleet. But the twin-engine jet is not yet approved to carry nuclear weapons.
The decision is also likely to cause discomfort in France, which is partnering with Germany on the FCAS project, a 6th generation fighter in early development. The German minister, however, reiterated her support for the project in her statement on Monday.
The F-35, a 5th generation fighter with stealth capability, has won most of the competitions in which it competes, such as Switzerland and Finland. In both countries it will replace Boeing’s F-18 Hornet and has been considered technically far superior to its competitors.
“The F-35 offers unique potential for cooperation with NATO allies. Eight European allies have already introduced Lockheed Martin multi-role combat aircraft or are in the process of being acquired. With the further development of the Eurofighter for electronic combat, important key technologies will remain in Germany and Europe,” said Lambrecht.
In addition to offering stealth capability, Lightning II is a modular design, capable of receiving electronic updates more easily.
According to Lockheed, more than 750 F-35 fighter jets were in operation by the end of 2021, including also the naval F-35B and F-35C versions.
Editor’s Note: The article was updated after the German Ministry of Defense confirmed the choice of the F-35.