why the Rafale had (almost) no chance against the F-35 in Germany

The signing of an F-35 contract by Germany was a thread of white thread. Confronted with the American plane, the “best plane in the world” had little chance of winning. explanation.

The signing of a contract for 35 F-35s by Germany is imminent. If this is a disappointment to European sovereignty and the French arms industry, it should come as no surprise to anyone, not even Dassault Aviation. For months, Eric Trappier, his boss, warned that the Germans’ choice would be the American plane.

The German press confirms that Berlin plans to equip itself with 50 fighter jets, 35 F-35 from the American Lockheed Martin and 15 Eurofighter, the aircraft developed by Airbus Defense & Space and Leonardo with cooperation between the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain . The European aircraft in “ECR SEAD” version for electronic jamming operations of anti-aircraft systems.

Did France have a chance to seduce the Bundeswehr with its Rafales? Experts now recognize that it had virtually no, if not only difficult, relations between the two countries in terms of industry and armaments.

Nuclear deterrence

It is up to Berlin to replace its fleet of Tornadoes intended to ensure its nuclear mission on behalf of NATO. And if the Rafale can perform deterrence missions, the device is not approved for the US B-61 Mod12 tactical atomic bombs that Germany is storing on its soil on behalf of the Pentagon. Some devices are compatible with this armament, including the Tornado that Germany plans to replace.

This choice remains a blow to European sovereignty. Use of the B-61s is subject to Washington’s approval, which has one of two keys that allow them to be used.

The other element that weighed in is the stealth of the F-35 which, thanks to its design and a specific coating of the surface, is difficult to detect by radar or infrared sensors. A point remembered by the specialized site Opex360.

“The Luftwaffe needs an aircraft that is difficult to detect by radar and capable of hitting targets at great distances,” said a German Air Force official, adding that this capability would be an asset in its deterrent capability. †

The price remains. The F-35 is an expensive device, but especially its maintenance is priceless. To reduce these costs, maintenance of the German F-35 would have to be shared with the Netherlands, which has ordered 46 aircraft from Lockheed Martin. In addition, Lockheed Martin has a manufacturing site in Italy that can provide technical skills and spare parts.

A blow to Dassault and Airbus

If Berlin’s decision to purchase American planes is a blow to Dassault, it’s one for Airbus too. Dirk Hoke, the CEO of Airbus, has warned for years that the choice of the F-35 “risks weakening the European defense industry and making it increasingly dependent on American technology”.

But it also risks dealing a fatal blow to the Scaf program led by Dassault and Airbus. In a report on high-intensity conflictMPs Patricia Mirallès and Jean-Louis Thiériot warned of the consequences of a German F-35 contract.

“Germany urgently needs Tornado replacements to implement deterrence in the context of NATO’s nuclear sharing. Persistent rumors point to the Luftwaffe’s preference for the F-35 which, if purchased, would meet the German need for a new fighter jet by 2040,” warned delegates who feared for the future of the Scaf.

Berlin tries to reassure his partners about this risk. According to the German press, the German government confirms that the purchase of the F-35 will not cast doubt on the aircraft program of the future. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also dismissed those fears in late February, saying the European aircraft project was a “top priority” in the long run.

France has no intention of abandoning its project to create the successor to the Rafale.

“In any case, the French army needs the aircraft of the future,” Joël Barre, General Delegate for Armaments at the DGA, reminds BFM Business.

Éric Trappier insists he has a plan B planned in case Dassault cannot find an agreement with Airbus. Unless the German-American contract prompted the two competing manufacturers to avoid “a weakening of the European defense industry”.