A parliamentary source said on Monday that Germany plans to buy up to 35 US-made F-35 fighter jets and 15 Eurofighter jets as part of a major push to modernise the armed forces in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to media reports corroborated by the source, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighters will help replace Germany’s decades-old Tornado force.
Tornados are the only jets capable of carrying US nuclear bombs stationed in Germany, a crucial part of NATO deterrence.
The F-35 stealth fighter jets from Lockheed Martin are the world’s most modern combat aircraft, and their unique shape and coating make them tougher to detect by enemy radar.
Moreover, the additional Eurofighter jets that Germany plans to buy, made by a consortium that includes Airbus, would reportedly be used for other operations, including electronic warfare and escort missions.
Last month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a €100 billion ($112 billion) investment in the country’s chronically underfunded Bundeswehr.
The spending boost marks a significant 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 was not shouldering enough of the economic burden in the NATO military alliance, Scholz also vowed to spend more than 2% of Germany’s GDP annually on defence, surpassing NATO’s target.
However, the F-35 purchase raises concerns about the future of a joint European fighter plane being developed by Spain and France.
By 2040, the plane, known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), is expected to replace French-made Rafale jets as well as German and Spanish Eurofighter planes.
Late last month, Scholz sought to calm fears that the project might become unnecessary by saying the joint European project was an “absolute priority”.