Buechel Air Base in southwestern Germany selected as destination for future F-35 fleet
Stars and Stripes June 14, 2022
Germany has chosen an installation near the U.S.-operated Spangdahlem Air Base to house the 35 American-made fighter jets it purchased as part of a military overhaul in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The fleet of fifth-generation F-35 stealth jets will be stationed at Buechel Air Base, in the country’s Eifel region, German broadcaster SWR reported Saturday, citing an unidentified spokesman in the German armed forces’ Federal Infrastructure Office.
The spokesman said the planes will take up residence at Buechel after runway renovation, which is expected to be completed by 2026. The F-35s will fill the role of the aging Tornado jets, which Germany had relied on for decades.
“The task of nuclear sharing will be guaranteed in the future. The goal is to replace the Tornado by 2030,” the German Defense Ministry tweeted in March.
Thomas Hitschler, a German lawmaker from Rheinland-Pfalz, told SWR that Buechel is the ideal location for the new jets.
“With the F-35, the air force will be able to ensure the necessary tasks of alliance and national defense in the coming decades,” he said.
The choice of Buechel is significant because the base is reportedly the storage site of U.S. nuclear weapons in Germany. Given the F-35’s ability to be equipped with such munitions, placing the aircraft at Buechel would be seen as an enhancement of the NATO nuclear deterrent in Germany.
According to SWR, the decision has sparked new concerns of nuclear conflict and the arrival of more American nuclear weapons in Germany as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Germany has spent $18.8 million on construction of a more secure fence at the base, SWR reported, adding that demonstrators were able to climb the previous fence.
Almost immediately after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the allocation of $107 billion to modernize Germany’s armed forces.
The replacement of the Tornado jets with a fleet of F-35s is a key part of the effort, as the fifth-generation fighters from Lockheed Martin are considered the world’s most modern combat aircraft.