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Luftwaffe welcomes F-35 nuclear certification

Germany is buying 35 F-35A aircraft, which it intends to use in the nuclear and conventional strike roles. (Lockheed Martin via Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The German Luftwaffe has welcomed the recent announcement that the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has been granted its nuclear certification, saying it was an important reason for buying the aircraft.

In a statement posted on 13 March, the Luftwaffe said it was an important decision by the Joint Program Office (JPO) to award the F-35A its nuclear operational certification ahead of schedule.

“[This is] quite important for our procurement of [the] F-35. This hurdle has also been overcome,” the Luftwaffe posted to its official X (formerly Twitter) account.

News that the F-35A had received its nuclear design certification came about two-and-a-half years after nuclear flight trials were completed in October 2021. During that campaign, two F-35As from the US Air Force's (USAF's) 422nd and 59th Test and Evaluation Squadrons (TESs) released B61-12 (B61 Mod 12) Joint Test Assemblies (JTAs) during the first Full-Weapon System Demonstration, paving the way for this latest milestone.

The F-35A has received its B61-12 capability as part of the wider Block 4/Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) upgrade that is designed to enable the aircraft to employ its full panoply of sensors and munitions. This was originally scheduled to happen in 2025.

The F-35A will now be able to carry the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb that is reported to have four separate and selectable yields. These comprise three strategic yields between 100 kT and 500 kT (including one ‘standard' setting of 354 kT), and a tactical low-yield (10 kT) option. The F-35A loadout would be one or two such weapons.

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