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US approves F-35A sale to Germany

An artist's impression of an F-35 Lightning II in Luftwaffe colours at the Berlin Security Conference in November 2017. (Lockheed Martin via Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The US government has approved the sale of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) combat aircraft to Germany.

The Department of State approval announced on 28 July covers 35 aircraft, a comprehensive weapons package, spares, training, and support, for an estimated USD8.4 billion.

β€œThe proposed sale will improve Germany's capability to meet current and future threats by providing a suitable replacement for Germany's retiring Tornado aircraft fleet in support of NATO's nuclear-sharing mission, the centrepiece for deterrence in Europe,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said.

While the equipment listed for approval is standard for the F-35A, the weapons package features some firsts for the Luftwaffe, including the Raytheon AIM-9X Block II+ Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile, the Raytheon GBU-53 StormBreaker Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) II, and the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) and JASSM Extended Range (ER). The B61 nuclear bomb that will arm the Luftwaffe's F-35As was not listed, as being a shared NATO asset it is not something that would be sold directly to Germany.

US government approval came weeks after Lockheed Martin's vice-president of F-35 strategy and business development, JR McDonald, told Janes and other media that Germany's procurement was to be fast-tracked in order to expedite delivery of the capability in the shortest timeline. β€œ[The selection] process happened very quickly, for a number of reasons that most are aware of [namely, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February],” he said at the ILA Air Show in June.

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