Germany has sent a Letter of Request for Pricing and Availability for the F-35 to the U.S. government. Lockheed Martin officials told AIN that they would assist in the U.S. response, which they expected would be made at the classified level. Germany received a preliminary classified briefing on the F-35 last July. Lockheed Martin brought its unclassified F-35 cockpit demonstrator to Berlin this week for The International Fighter Conference, organized by Defence IQ.
Speaking at the same conference, the chief of staff of the German Air Force (GAF) Lt. Gen. Karl Muellner said that the service is seeking a replacement for its Tornado strike fleet. With those jets due to be phased out in 2030, a successor would have to enter service from 2025. “We are considering several candidates, with the capability of the F-35 as the benchmark.”
Muellner did not specify the other candidates, but AIN has learned from other sources that the GAF has been considering the Boeing F-15 Strike Eagle, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, and even a so-called Tranche 4 version of the Eurofighter. However, according to the requirements for the new fighter that Muellner listed in his conference presentation, the F-35 seems to be the key contender. The Luftwaffe chief said the new acquisition “must be survivable in a contested environment through low-observability by radar and infrared signature; have low emissions; offer stand-off capability with its sensors and weapons; and be capable of sensor fusion.
The mission set would include offensive counter-air; air interdiction; close air support; suppression of enemy air defenses; tactical reconnaissance; electronic combat; and nuclear deterrence, Muellner added. AIN believes that the last mission is a reference to the U.S. B61 nuclear free-fall bomb, which can be carried by the Tornado under NATO nuclear-release deterrence doctrine. An updated version of the B61 is due to be integrated on the F-35.
“If we bought the F-35,” Muellner continued, “it would fulfill our requirement, strengthen interoperability because other NATO members are acquiring it and make a contribution to balancing our trade surplus with the U.S.”
Muellner was asked whether the GAF’s plan was contrary to last year’s announcement by the leaders of France and Germany that they would jointly develop a new combat aircraft. He said that this would be a longer-term project, to replace the Eurofighter from 2045 with a “Fifth Generation-Plus” solution. This aircraft would offer much greater automation, make use of artificial intelligence and offer cyber capabilities. “We must certainly keep the industrial knowledge and the jobs in Europe,” he added.