Berlin (AFP), March 14 – Germany on Monday unveiled plans to buy dozens of American-made F-35 fighter jets, part of a multibillion-euro drive to modernize its armed forces in response to the invasion. Russian from Ukraine.
Berlin intends to buy 35 F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin to replace Germany’s decades-old Tornado fleet, as well as buying 15 more Eurofighter jets.
Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht called the purchase deal a “good step forward” for Germany’s Bundeswehr armed forces.
“There can be only one response to Putin’s aggression, and that is unity within NATO and credible deterrence,” Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, commander of the military, told reporters. the German Air Force.
German Tornados are the only Luftwaffe aircraft certified to carry US nuclear bombs stationed in Germany which are a key element of NATO deterrence.
Lockheed’s fifth-generation F-35 stealth aircraft are considered the most modern combat aircraft in the world, and their unique shape and coating make them harder to detect by enemy radar.
The additional Eurofighter planes that Germany plans to buy, made by a consortium including Airbus, would be used for other operations, including electronic warfare, such as jamming enemy air defense systems.
In a landmark speech late last month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged an additional 100 billion euros ($112 billion) to bring the chronically underfunded Bundeswehr into the modern era. .
The spending hike marks a major reversal for Europe’s top economy, upending its policy of maintaining a low military profile in part out of guilt over World War II.
After years of criticism that the country was not bearing the financial burden of the NATO military alliance enough, Scholz pledged to spend “more than 2%” of Germany’s gross domestic product each year on defence, exceeding NATO’s 2% target.
This change was prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which shook Germany’s sense of security and shone a spotlight on the state of its armed forces.
– Recoil –
The purchase of the F-35, however, has raised questions about the future of a joint European fighter aircraft being developed with Spain and France.
Known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), the aircraft is expected to replace French-made Rafale aircraft and German and Spanish Eurofighter aircraft from 2040.
Scholz sought to allay fears that the project was becoming redundant, declaring in his February speech that the common European project was a “top priority”.
But the Bundeswehr must replace its 40-year-old, 93-man Tornado fleet in the short term because it has become “obsolete”, Scholz added.
Lambrecht also reiterated Germany’s long-term commitment to FCAS on Monday.
Lawmaker Johannes Arlt of Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) said the F-35 deal was good news for FCAS in a roundabout way.
“The F-35 builds a bridge to the SCAF. The Luftwaffe will learn to fly these fifth generation jets and this will help the FCAS project.
FCAS’ state-of-the-art jets are considered sixth-generation fighters.
Germany’s planned jet deal is bad news for US aviation giant Boeing, whose F-18 fighters were seen as favorites to succeed the Tornados.
Although cheaper than the F-35s, the F-18 should have been recertified to be able to carry the atomic warheads hosted by Germany.
The price of the new German fighter planes was not immediately known.
But Finland ordered 64 F-35A planes in December, as part of a deal worth 8.4 billion euros.
Scholz’s center-left SPD and its coalition partners, the Greens, have always been critical of Germany harboring US nuclear bombs, but those voices have faded as the war in Ukraine rages on.