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Update: Germany officially joins F-35 programme with signing of LOA

With the LOA now signed, a contract for 35 F-35As for the Luftwaffe is expected to be finalised shortly. (Lockheed Martin via Janes/Gareth Jennings)

Germany has formally joined the international Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter programme, with the signing of a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) announced on 14 December.

The Bundeswehr cemented its intent to buy 35 of the ‘stealth' fighters to satisfy the nuclear strike role of the Luftwaffe's Tornado replacement programme. The agreement includes a comprehensive package of engines, role-specific mission equipment, spare and replacement parts, technical and logistic support, and training and armament.

News of the LOA came nine months after Berlin announced it had selected the F-35A and Eurofighter EK to fulfil its Tornado replacement requirement. “The decision on the Tornado successor has been made. With the aircraft type F-35, the task of nuclear sharing will be guaranteed in the future. The goal is to replace the Tornado by 2030,” the Bundeswehr said in March.

While Germany is ostensibly buying the F-35A for the nuclear mission, the US government approval noted a host of weapon systems that point to a secondary conventional deep strike role. As well as the Raytheon AIM-9X Block II+ Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile that the aircraft would carry for self-defence, the approval notification listed the Raytheon GBU-53 StormBreaker Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) II, the Lockheed Martin AGM-158A Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), and AGM-158B JASSM Extended Range (ER) also.

With the LOA signed, a contract is expected to follow soon. Deliveries are scheduled to be launched in 2026 and completed by 2030.

This story, first published on 15 December 2022, has been updated with new information.

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