Germany is said to be on the verge of announcing its willingness to buy about 35 U.S. F-35 fighter-bombers to replace its aging Tornado IDS, of which about 75 are still in service with the Luftwaffe.
A Reuters report
According to Reuters, Germany is close to announcing a decision in principle to buy about 35 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter-bombers. An initial source had already made this assumption on February 4, but this time Reuters is reportedly relying on 2 government sources.
The NATO Nuclear Sharing Agreement
During the Cold War, the United States decided to pre-position tactical nuclear bombs within several European countries. The activation codes remain in the hands of the U.S. President, but in the event of a NATO invasion, the President can put his bombs under NATO control. The countries concerned could then use these bombs, according to the plans of the Atlantic Alliance, to retaliate against this attack. Today, this agreement is still in force, but the nuclear-tipped shells have been withdrawn. The agreement involves 6 countries with a number of B-61 tactical nuclear bombs:
- Belgium, at the Kleine Brogel base,
- Germany, at the Büchel base and probably at the Ramstein base,
- Italy, at the Aviano and Ghedi Torre bases,
- Netherlands, at the Volkel base,
- Turkey, at the Incirlik base.
The aircraft used by the member countries were either American F-16s or Panavia Tornado IDSs (Italy, Germany), the only European aircraft capable of carrying the American B-61 nuclear bombs.
Today it is no longer possible for a new European aircraft to carry the B-61 bombs because the United States refused to give the information necessary to develop this carrying capacity. Therefore, if these countries want to remain in this agreement, they are obliged to buy the F-35. The F-35 is the only fighter-bomber with this capability (the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet does not). Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy have already purchased F-35s.
In 2019, Turkey was excluded from the F-35 program but its F-16 fleet is starting to age. The crisis in Ukraine suggests that the United States is looking for a compromise with Turkey to modernize these older aircraft and thus secure NATO's southeastern flank.
This leaves Germany, whose new government had announced its willingness to remain in the nuclear sharing agreement. If this purchase intention becomes official, the German Air Force will replace its old Tornado IDS (about 75 still in service) with 35 F-35As. These will in no way replace the Eurofighters in service, and the 30 or so Tornado ECRs for electronic warfare should be replaced by 15 Eurofighters for electronic warfare.
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