F18 for German Air Force Nuclear, Jamming missions | World Defense

F18 for German Air Force Nuclear, Jamming missions

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F18 for German Air Force Nuclear, Jamming missions
26 April 2020
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COLOGNE, Germany – German defense officials have finally admitting to their vision of buying a few dozen upgraded F-18 fighter jets, citing transatlantic ties as one of the reasons for the pick.

The 45 Boeing-made planes would replace a portion of the country's Tornado aircraft, taking on the sensitive roles of delivering U.S. atomic weapons under NATO's so-called nuclear sharing doctrine and clearing enemy enemy air defenses for follow-on waves of aerial forces.

In addition, the proposal transmitted to lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon entails buying up to 93 Airbus-made Eurofighters, which would carry out the bulk of kinetic missions that warplanes tend to do.

The defense ministry portrayed the decision as a compromise. On the one hand, officials argued, the goal is to prop up a European defense industry busy laying the groundwork for the French-German Future Combat Air System. On the other hand, the F-18s in the Super Hornet and Growler variants would help avert a gap in crucial capability contributions that Germany owes to NATO, they wrote.

“The decision cements the transatlantic partnership, and it underpins our credibility within NATO,” the missive to lawmakers states.

Still, the decision remains controversial. Domestic industry advocates have argued the Eurofighter could take on the electronic warfare role, for which the government’s proposal envisions 15 Growlers, by fielding Airbus’s own jamming package. In addition, the argument goes, Germany could piggy-back on a United Kingdom program, another Eurofighter nation, to outfit the planes with the requisite kit.

As for the nuclear-sharing mission, the F-18 decision signals that German defense leaders want to play it safe, at least as long as Berlin remains committed to the pact in the first place. While the latest F-18 variant has yet to be certified to carry American B-61 gravity bombs stored here, ordering a 30-strong fleet of turnkey doomsday bombers from the Pentagon promises to be a lot more stress-free than trying to get Eurofighters ready for the job.

The nuclear mission, however symbolic, accords Germany a kind of atomic gravitas within NATO that previous governments here have upheld even when public opinion was less supportive.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Wednesday was careful to frame the split buy as a mere proposal. The Tornado fleet will be viable through 2030, which means an acquisition program needs to be in place by 2025, with parliamentary approvals planned for 2022 and 2023, she said.

“We have not made a source selection,” she told reporters after emerging from a closed meeting of the Bundestag’s defense committee.
 

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Germany outlines Tornado succession plan with Eurofighter and Super Hornet buy

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Germany hopes to have fully retired its Panavia Tornado combat aircraft in 2030, with the arrival of a successor aircraft to begin in 2025.

Berlin intends to acquire 45 Boeing Super Hornet-family aircraft for the requirement – 30 F/A-18E/Fs, plus 15 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft – alongside a further 55 Eurofighters.

An additional 38 examples of the European-built combat type will be purchased to replace the Luftwaffe’s tranche 1 Eurofighters.

While many within Germany had pushed for the acquisition of a single type, certain “special skills” possessed by the Tornado – carriage of US nuclear weapons and electronic warfare equipment – required the split-buy.

“For this purpose, the intention is to purchase 45 F-18 aircraft as a bridge solution for nuclear participation and airborne electronic combat,” says the German defence ministry.

While Germany is with France and Spain jointly developing a future combat air system (FCAS), this will not arrive until the 2040s.

“Therefore, there must be a bridge solution based on models available on the market for the time after the Tornado has become useless and before the FCAS is launched,” it says.

Although unions have argued that the selection of the US-built fighters would harm development activities and industrial capabilities required for the FCAS, this project “should not be endangered”, says the ministry.

“In order to maintain unbroken capability, procurement must start from 2025,” it says. “To be able to replace the Tornado in good time, the procurement process must therefore be started now.”

The Tornado is “no longer economical and no longer safe to operate” beyond 2030, says defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The defence ministry describes the Super Hornets as “already fully developed and available on the armaments market”, and says initial talks with the US administration have already been held.

Partner nations “France and Great Britain were also included in the planning”, it adds.

Should German defence committee members agree with the acquisition proposals, detailed plans will be presented to the Bundestag “in the next legislative period” in 2022 or “probably” 2023.

“Knowing the established, also parliamentary, processes, we are only at the beginning of a procurement that will take years,” says the defence ministry.
 

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