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Germany eliminates F-35 from Tornado-replacement race

01 February 2019
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Lockheed Martin had high hopes of selling its F-35 to Germany, and had issued a number of promotional images including the aircraft in Luftwaffe markings. Source: Lockheed Martin via IHS Markit/Gareth Jennings

Germany has cut the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter from the list of options for its Tornado replacement programme, Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources disclosed on 31 January.

The Luftwaffe had been considering the F-35A as one of five potential replacement platforms for its fleet of 90 Panavia Tornado aircraft. However, a Bundeswehr source has told Reuters that it will now look at just the Eurofighter Typhoon and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet instead (the Super Hornet is being offered in conjunction with the EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, while the Boeing F-15 Advanced Eagle that was offered also appears from the source’s comments to have been discounted).

With the Luftwaffe looking to retire its 90 Tornado aircraft from 2030 and needing a one-for-one replacement to enter service in about 2025, a request for proposals (RFP) for an aircraft to perform 10 current Tornado missions and two additional but undisclosed missions was issued in early 2018. A type selection was anticipated at the end of last year but this has been delayed while the Bundeswehr considers it options.

The decision to eliminate the F-35 from the proceedings is not altogether surprising, despite the Luftwaffe’s previously disclosed preference for the aircraft. Speaking in late 2017 the former service chief, Lieutenant General Karl Müllner, said “The Luftwaffe considers the F-35’s capability as the benchmark for the selection process for the Tornado replacement, and I think I have expressed myself clearly enough as to what the favourite of the air force is.”

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