Dhe aged Bundeswehr tornado fleet is to be replaced by up to 90 further Eurofighters and 45 F-18 fighter planes from the American manufacturer Boeing from 2025. The model is to be procured for electronic aerial combat and Germany’s “nuclear participation” in American weapons. This is provided by internal plans by the Ministry of Defense, which according to dpa information have already been discussed at the political level and with industry representatives. Defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) has yet to approve the plan, it said in parliamentary space.
Union faction vice Johann Wadephul (CDU) has called for a swift decision to replace the tornado in response to the plan. It must be prevented that the Bundeswehr loses capabilities “if only for a limited time,” warned the CDU defense politician on Thursday. “The military needs of the Air Force must be in the foreground when making the decision,” Wadephul said. He spoke of a “clear commitment to the European aviation industry”. “At the same time, you would have a proven and reliable model for the special tasks of the Air Force that could be procured at short notice. This solution would span the time to launch the Future Fighter Aircraft (FCAS). ”
The Bundeswehr currently has a total of 234 combat aircraft, including 141 Eurofighters from the European manufacturer Airbus and 93 tornadoes. The tornado, which was launched almost 40 years ago, is intended for the tasks of air attack, tactical aerial reconnaissance and electronic warfare – and for nuclear deterrence. 83 aircraft are in flight operation, and ten more aircraft are used for training on the ground and for technical defense tests. Germany is one of the last users of this type of aircraft. The company will soon face the cost of additional billions, if only because spare parts become manufacturing work.
There has been a long struggle for the successor decision, which involves a double-digit billion amount over the years. The plan now being negotiated is intended to reconcile security policy requirements with industrial policy, which among other things involves strong Bavarian interests. The Airbus armaments division has its headquarters in Bavaria, Eurofighters are finally assembled in Manching. Either way – a future federal government will only make the final decision on the timeline.
The project is also politically difficult because of the “special role” of the tornado: NATO’s nuclear deterrent concept provides that allies have access to nuclear weapons in the United States in the event of war, ie must be able to carry the bombs to their destination. Officially never confirmed, but still a kind of open secret: 20 thermonuclear B61 gravity bombs from the American armed forces are to be stored in Buchel in the Eifel, which can be latched under German tornadoes.
A two-fleet concept
The topic is central to the support obligations in the transatlantic alliance, but: You cannot score points in Germany with it, especially not as a SPD politician. The SPD has not shaken it since 1958. “Nuclear deterrence will remain an integral part of the European security architecture for the foreseeable future. Nuclear participation ensures that Germany has a greater influence on NATO’s nuclear strategy, ”SPD defense politician Fritz Felgentreu told dpa in October. And: “We shouldn’t give it up lightly – especially not if we want to enforce arms control and disarmament.”
In the case of a replacement for the Tornado, military planners recently referred to the need to guarantee operational safety with two different aircraft. Strategies speak of a two-fleet concept.
Also a replacement for old Eurofighters
A solution should now look like this: Around 30 F-18s of the “Super Hornet” version are to be procured for nuclear participation. The model speaks for the fact that certification by the United States appears to be easier than with the Eurofighter, after all, Washington can set the pace even here. For the electronic dogfight – disturbing, holding down and fighting enemy air defense positions – 15 F-18s in the “Growler” version are also procured.
The new Eurofighters take on the other tasks of the Tornado fleet: aerial reconnaissance, the use of conventional bombs and as a fighter plane. The relatively large number of at least 78 Eurofighters – but possibly more than 90 – comes about because planes are also to be bought as replacements for older Eurofighters in Tranche 1.
Letter from IG Metall
The plan is to protect the interests of the European defense industry. This also applies to the jointly operated project with France of a new air combat system (“FCAS”), which should be available from 2040. Politicians such as Bavarias Prime Minister Markus Soder had warned that German industry was working at full capacity and jobs would be safeguarded. However, Airbus had also warned that plans to sell Eurofighters to Switzerland, Finland and Spain could be shaken if an F-18 was bought in Germany.
Before the plans became known, the IG Metall and works councils issued a fire letter warning against the purchase of American F-18s instead of the Eurofighter. 100,000 jobs in Europe are dependent on the Eurofighter, including 25,000 in Germany. “The purchase of the F-18 would not only flow billions of German tax money into the United States, but would also endanger the future of military aerospace in Germany,” said the letter to Kramp-Karrenbauer, Minister of Economy Peter Altmaier and Chancellery Minister Helge Braun (all CDU) was addressed.