The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has advised Congress that the State Department has approved the sale of 35 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighters to Germany.
The 28 July notification is estimated to be valued at US$8.4bn (A$12bn) and includes two spare P&W F135 engines. It also includes a comprehensive package of weapons, including AIM-120C-8 AMRAAM and AIM-9X air-to-air missiles, GBU-31/54 JDAM and laser JDAM bombs and tail kits, BLU-109 hardened penetrator bombs, 75 AGM-158B JASSM-ER long-range missiles, and 344 GBU-53/B StormBreaker guided weapons.
The approval follows Germany’s March 2022 announcement that it would buy the F-35A instead of a previous plan to buy the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to replace the Luftwaffe’s Panavia Tornado IDS in the tactical nuclear strike role.
While Germany doesn’t have its own nuclear weapons, a number of its fighters have been allocated to NATO to deliver US tactical weapons. But the US Navy’s Super Hornet is not used in the nuclear delivery role, so a modification and certification program would have also been required for that aircraft. Conversely, the F-35A was developed for the nuclear mission, only requiring a modified software load to be able to employ the special weapons.
In the face of an increasing threat to western Europe from Russia, the notification continues a recent trend by Germany to buy more systems of US origin – adding to CH-47F Chinook and P-8A Poseidon buys – as opposed to previously-favoured German or European-developed systems. But Germany has also committed to funding a new tranche of Eurofighter EF-2000s with AESA radars and other advanced systems to replace some of its earlier EF-2000s.
Still to be decided by Germany is whether to replace its Tornado ECR electronic attack aircraft with the Boeing EA-18G Growler, a developed version of the EF-2000, or to acquire a podded system for use on the F-35A.