Germany won’t be buying US planes to replace aging Tornados before 2022, official says

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet takes off from RAF Lakenheath, England, in 2018, during an exercise hosted by the base's 48th Fighter Wing. German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Wednesday that her country is in preliminary talks but hasn't yet committed to buying 45 F/A-18s to replace some of its aging Tornado fighter-bombers.


By KARIN ZEITVOGEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 23, 2020

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Germany has not committed to buying 45 American jets to replace some of its Tornado fighter-bombers, the country’s top defense official said this week amid accusations that she formally indicated to the Pentagon that the multibillion-dollar deal would go ahead.

“No decision has been taken (on which planes will be chosen) and, in any case, the (defense) ministry can’t take that decision — only parliament can,” Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters after a 90-minute, closed-door meeting with a parliamentary defense committee Wednesday.

Kramp-Karrenbauer has been under fire since a report in Der Spiegel newsmagazine Sunday said she sent Defense Secretary Mark Esper an email last week announcing that Germany planned to buy 30 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growlers to replace 45 of its Panavia Tornados, which have been in service since the 1970s.

Some in the political opposition have questioned whether the email was a formal declaration of Germany’s intent to purchase the American planes, media reports said.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said the defense ministry only has suggested that Germany purchase the 45 Boeing planes along with 93 Eurofighter Typhoons, made by a consortium of European companies.

“The suggestion that we purchase Eurofighters … and a much smaller number of F-18s is a compromise that will allow us to make new planes available to the Luftwaffe,” the German air force, by 2030, when the Tornado is due to be taken out of service.

The replacement aircraft must “seamlessly” fill the aging Tornado’s dual role, serving as a fighter-bomber in conventional warfare and maintaining the capability to carry U.S. nuclear bombs, as required by NATO, Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

The ministry is in preliminary talks with Airbus and Boeing so that a decision could be possible during the 2022-2023 legislative period, Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

The Super Hornets have been selected to be part of the package because “only U.S. manufacturers are offering” the capacity to carry nuclear weapons, as required under NATO’s nuclear-sharing terms, Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung Tuesday.

The Tornados are currently the only planes in the German air force that are certified by NATO to carry U.S. nuclear bombs.

Although none of the jets in the running to replace the Tornado is a dual-capability aircraft, the U.S. government told the Germans that Boeing’s fighter could be certified more rapidly than the Typhoon to carry the U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bomb, media reports said last month.

The Tornado’s replacement would be a stopgap measure before the planned introduction in the next decade of the Future Combat Air System, a sixth-generation multirole jet made by a consortium of French, Spanish and German companies.

Stars and Stripes reporters Marcus Kloeckner and Slobodan Lekic contributed to this story.

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