Germany’s decision to purchase F-35s threatens to create tensions with its European partners

This is Berlin’s first major military equipment decision since Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s announcement on February 27 to spend 100 billion euros on modernizing the German military. And it threatens to stir up tensions between Berlin and its partners when it comes to European defence, France leading the way. Defense Secretary Christine Lambrecht announced on Monday, March 14, the purchase of up to 35 American-made stealth aircraft, F-35s from manufacturer Lockheed Martin, to partially replace the old fleet of 85 Tornadoes that had been used for 40 years. . be decommissioned by 2030 at the latest.

Christine Lambrecht justified this choice by explaining that the F-35 “offered a unique collaboration potential” with German NATO allies and other partners in Europe. Indeed, the American fighter is already in use in the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, as well as in Switzerland and Finland.

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Air Force Inspector Ingo Gerhartz pointed out visibly pleased that, given Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, there is no “no alternatives” to the F-35, considered “the most modern fighter plane in the world”, and “Immediately available on the market”† Above all, the F-35 is the only aircraft currently certified to carry US nuclear bombs, enabling Germany to fulfill its commitment to “nuclear participation”: if it does not possess the weapon itself, it must indeed be capable of for the American atomic bombs in case of emergency, mission that the Tornado accomplishes.

The choice of the American plane, which concludes two years of debate about the succession of the Tornado, gives satisfaction to the executives of the Air Force. Nevertheless, it is very delicate in terms of European military cooperation: Germany, together with Paris and Madrid, is developing a 100% European fighter aircraft, the SCAF (Future Air Combat System), which should enter service ‘here in 2040’. a chance to develop and impose itself if Germany uses state-of-the-art F-35s, which are difficult to present as transition solutions? This concern is great on the French side, which fears that Berlin is not putting enough financial resources and political will into the common plane project.

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Purchase of Eurofighter

In order to allay doubts about German participation in the European defense effort, Mme Lambrecht specified that the military would also purchase 15 Eurofighter aircraft, manufactured by Airbus, that will intervene in electronic air warfare, that is, for the identification and combating of enemy air threats. “This will allow us to keep key technologies in Germany and Europe”, she said. She also insisted on German involvement in the FCAS: “It remains our ambition to gradually replace the Eurofighters with the SCAFs from 2040 and to carry out this trinational project as an example of European cooperation, as I explained to my French counterpart in Evreux last week. †

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