Germany plans to buy up to 35 US-made F-35 fighter jets and 15 Eurofighter jets, a parliamentary source said Monday, as part of a major push to modernise the armed forces in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin would help replace Germany’s decades-old Tornado fleet, according to media reports confirmed by the source.
Tornados are the only jets capable of carrying US nuclear bombs stationed in Germany that are a key part of NATO deterrence.
Lockheed’s F-35 stealth jets 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 jets Germany plans to purchase, made by a consortium that includes Airbus, would reportedly be used for other operations, including electronic warfare and escort missions.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last month pledged to invest 100 billion euros ($112 billion) in the nation’s chronically underfunded Bundeswehr.
The spending boost marks a major reversal for Europe’s top economy, upending its policy of keeping a low military profile in part out of guilt over World War II.
After years of criticism that the country wasn’t shouldering enough of the financial burden in the NATO military alliance, Scholz also vowed to spend more than two percent of Germany’s gross domestic product annually on defence, surpassing NATO’s target.
The shift was prompted by the return of war to the European continent following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, shaking Germany’s sense of security and shining a harsh spotlight on the state of its armed forces.
The F-35 purchase however raises questions about the future of a common European fighter jet being developed with Spain and France.
Known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), the plane is slated to replace French-made Rafale jets and German and Spanish Eurofighter planes by 2040.
Scholz sought to allay fears that the project might become unnecessary late last month, by saying the joint European project was an “absolute priority”.
“It is important to me… that we build the next generation of combat aircraft and tanks in collaboration with European partners,” he said.
But the German Bundeswehr has to replace its Tornado fleet in the short term because it has become “obsolete”, Scholz added.