BERLIN: Germany plans to buy up to 35 U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets and 15 Eurofighter jets, a parliamentary source said on Monday, as part of a major push to modernize its armed forces in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin would help replace Germany’s decades-old Tornado fleet, according to media reports confirmed by the source.
Tornados are the only jets capable of carrying US nuclear bombs stationed in Germany that are a key part of NATO deterrence.
Lockheed’s F-35 stealth jets are considered the most modern combat aircraft in the world, and their unique shape and coating make them harder to detect by enemy radar.
The additional Eurofighters that Germany plans to buy are reportedly built by a consortium that includes Airbus and will be used for other operations, including electronic warfare and escort missions.
German Chancellor Olaf Schultz pledged last month to invest 100 billion euros ($112 billion) in the country’s chronically underfunded Bundeswehr.
The increase in spending marks a major reversal for Europe’s largest economy, upending its policy of maintaining a low-profile military image, in part due to guilt over World War II.
Scholz also vowed to spend more than 2 percent of Germany’s gross domestic product on defense annually, exceeding NATO targets, after years of criticizing the country for failing to shoulder an adequate financial burden in the NATO military alliance.
The shift comes as war returns to continental Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which has shaken Germany’s sense of security and has put the state of its armed forces under intense scrutiny.
However, the purchase of the F-35 raises questions about the future of the common European fighter, which is being co-developed with Spain and France.
Known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), the plane is slated to replace French-made Rafale jets and German and Spanish Eurofighter planes by 2040.
Scholz sought to allay fears that the project might become unnecessary late last month, by saying the joint European project was an “absolute priority”.
“It is important to me… that we build the next generation of combat aircraft and tanks in collaboration with European partners,” he said.
But the German Bundeswehr has to replace its Tornado fleet in the short term because it has become “obsolete”, Scholz added.