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Old 31st Jan 2019, 21:01
  #11703 (permalink)  
ORAC
Ecce Homo! Loquitur...
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
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https://www.ft.com/content/cb0f12dc-...9-c7e6ceb5ffdf

Germany opts against buying American F-35 stealth fighter

Berlin cuts options for replacing Tornado fleet down to Eurofighter or US F-18

The German defence ministry has decided not to buy the F-35 stealth fighter as a replacement for the country’s ageing Tornado fleet, and is instead looking at acquiring either more Eurofighters from Airbus or the Boeing-made F-18.

A final decision has yet to be made, defence officials said in Berlin on Thursday evening, but the ministry has now effectively narrowed down the choice from four planes to two. Aside from the Eurofighter, the F-35 and the F-18, Germany had initially also considered the F-15 as a possible Tornado replacement. Both the F-35, made by Lockheed Martin, and the F-15, also made by Boeing, have now dropped out of the race.

The German defence ministry will now seek more precise information regarding the two remaining planes from Boeing and from Airbus, officials said.

The decision to narrow down the choice to the Eurofighter and the F-18 reflects careful political calculations — and the desire in Berlin to balance competing demands from two of its closest allies: the US and France. A move to replace at least part of the Tornado fleet with an American-made plane would be certain to please the US government, which has long clamoured for Germany to raise its defence spending and lobbied hard in favour of a US jet.

France, on the other hand, is understood to have argued strongly against a German acquisition of the F-35, which is widely seen as the most advanced of the four jets on offer and could have served German military needs for years to come. According to defence analysts, buying the older F-18 poses much less of a threat to Franco-German plans to build a super-modern next-generation “Future Combat Air System” after 2035.

It is still possible that the German defence ministry will decide to shun the F-18 and buy only the Eurofighter. That is the solution favoured by key members of parliament, especially those from the Social Democratic party, the junior partner in Angela Merkel’s coalition government. But such a move would raise immediate questions over Germany’s ability to participate in Nato’s “nuclear-sharing” arrangement, whereby US nuclear weapons are kept on European bases, ready for deployment by European planes. In the case of Germany, that task is currently performed by Tornado planes, which means any replacement needs to be technically capable as well as certified by the US to carry American nuclear warheads.

Some analysts doubt the Eurofighter could win that certification before the 85-strong Tornado fleet is phased out, a process that is expected to start in 2025. In the case of the F-18, there are no such doubts.









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