According to a German defense source, Germany is leaning towards the purchase of U.S. stealth fighter jets F-35 built by Lockheed Martin which will replace its ageing Tornado. It has yet to take a final decision on the purchase.
According to another source close to the German military, a possible F-35 purchase was “back on the table”, however he warned, any decision on the matter was not expected anytime soon.
“There have been recent efforts to inform Germany of how to move ahead with a potential F-35 purchase,” said a third source involved in the effort.
“As a matter of policy, we will not publicly confirm or comment on proposed defense transfers or sales until they have been formally notified to Congress. We refer you to the German government to speak to its future defense procurement plans,” said a spokesperson for the US State Department.
Germany needs to replace its ageing Tornado jets in the near future to remain part of NATO’s nuclear sharing agreement – something the new government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged to do.
Germany’s ageing Tornado is the only jet available with it, which is capable of carrying U.S. nuclear bombs that are stored in Germany in the event of a conflict.
Berlin aims to phase out the Tornados between 2025 and 2030.
Germany’s new coalition government has said, it will purchase replacements for the Tornados early in its four-year term in office. If it does not do this, Germany would drop out of nuclear sharing when the last Tornado retires around 2030.
Germany is likely to raise the issue during Cholz’s trip to Washington next week, said a source.
In the event Germany decides to opt for the F-35, it would mark a blow for Boeing since its F-18 was favoured by former German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to replace the Tornado.
Germany could also opt for the joint Franco-German fighter jet under development, but which is expected to be ready in the 2040s.
It is not clear how many F-35 jets Germany may attempt to buy.
Kramp-Karrenbauer had planned on purchasing 45 F-18s, but these were meant to replace both Tornado jets tasked with nuclear sharing as well as those for electronic warfare.