The German Air Force has a shortlist of existing platforms to replace its Panavia Tornados from 2025 to 2030, but the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is the service’s “preferred choice", a senior service official said on 8 November.
Speaking under the Chatham House Rule, the official said that the F-35 already fulfils most of the requirements that the Luftwaffe requires to replace its Tornados in the 2025 to 2030 timeframe, and that it offers a number of other benefits besides.
“The Tornado replacement needs to be fifth-generation aircraft that can be detected as late as possible, if at all. It must be able to identify targets from a long way off and to target them as soon as possible.
“The German Ministry of Defence [MoD] is looking at several aircraft today, including the F-35 – it is commercially available already, has been ordered by many nations and is being introduced into service today, and has most of the capabilities required.”
Germany had previously engaged Airbus Defence and Space (DS) in defining the requirements for a future Tornado replacement under its Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme. However, the timelines involved of an anticipated retirement of the Tornado in about 2030 has caused the Luftwaffe to look instead at an already developed platform. As the official explained, “The timeframe suggests we need to start introducing successor in about 2025 to cover the Tornado retirement in 2030 – we need a five-year transition phase. That is only seven years away, and so it is very unlikely that industry could develop and introduce an entirely new aircraft type that fulfils the functionalities that we require. History show that the Eurofighter took 25 years before the first aircraft was introduced.”
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