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Earlier in the year, German defence ministry sources appeared to favour the F-35 to replace Tornado but now some have spoken out in favour of Typhoon.

Germany, which is looking to replace its aging Tornado jets, is due to decide in mid-2018 about whether to start a new fighter development programme or buy an existing fighter.

Deputy Defence Minister Ralf Brauksiepe clarified that the government views the Eurofighter as the “primary” option for replacing the fleet of Tornado jets in 2025.

According to Reuters, the F-15E, the F/A-18E/F and the F-35 are considered only as “secondary choices”.

Back in November we reported that the F-35 is the “preferred” choice the list of aircraft the Luftwaffe is looking at according to a senior service official speaking anonymously under the Chatham House Rule, who told Jane’s 360:

“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 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.”

German officials are expected to request formal bids next year.

44 COMMENTS

  1. Luftwaffe wants F35, German politicans want Typhoon.

    Should you choose a weapon system based on war fighting capability or politics?

    Assuming the that the first option affordable then choose that one everytime.

    Wars are one and lost because of such decisions.

    • “Should you choose a weapon system based on war fighting capability or politics?”

      That’s exactly what Canada has just done.
      Scrap F35, purchase Advance Super Hornet
      Have a fall out with US
      Purchase 30 year old F18A from Australia.
      The good news is the money Trudeau saves he can hand over (with apology) to Islamic terrorists.

  2. Reminds me of German rearmament decisions in the late 50s and early 60s.

    The Kriegsmarine wanted the then Blackburn Buccaneer as it’s maritime strike aircraft, the politicans opted for the F104G.

    The Luftwaffe purchased the F104F/G instead of a variety of European aircraft (Mirage, Lightning and SR177 were in the mix) based on politics and bribes to politicans.

    The F104 was a disaster as it was totally unsuitable for operations in Northern Europe in its primary role of strike/attack.

    • Hi Mike
      Some of the criticism of the F-104 can be unfair; its genesis was in the Korean war, when American pilots came home demanding an aircraft with higher-speed, and an outstanding rate-of-climb – which the F-104 certainly delivered on!
      I don’t believe it was the right aircraft for the new Luftwaffe, and neither did “Ace of Aces” Erich Hartmann. But in the strike role, with its stubby little wings and powerful engine, it was a very stable delivery platform at low-level, and speeds of 700 mph (which is what European air-forces wanted in the 1970/80s). It was just rather limited in other roles.
      Rather than any inherent fault of the aircraft, it can be argued that it’s infamous Widowmaker reputation in Luftwaffe service was due to badly trained and inexperienced pilots flying into the ground. I’m sure I’ve read that it’s attrition rate was comparable to the more celebrated English Electric Lightning, an aircraft seriously plagued by in-flight engine fires. Indeed the Harrier GR1/GR3 attrition rate was also poor. (If I know this site, I’m sure someone out there may have the statistics to prove me right, or wrong!)
      The Blackburn Buccaneer was certainly the correct aircraft for the new Kriegsmarine, but if aviation journalist Bill Gunston is to be believed, the UK government talked the German MoD out of the sale!

      • There is a book written by Test Pilot Roland Beamont ( he developed, among others, Lightning and TSR2) called Testing Years. Well worth a read. In it he evaluates the 104; it does not fare well. In his opinion it failed in its primary purpose ie to be a stable weapons platform, and the ejection seat firing downwards meant pilots had to roll inverted before ejecting at low level if, in deed, they could.

      • Mostly agree with you, I do think that the F104 was unsuitable for low level operations in northern Europe given the dire weather conditions. The Luftwaffe at that time needed an aircraft that was better suited to low level ops and easier to fly and maintain, maybe the F5 was the answer for that role with the mirage for the air intercept role?

        I believe Hartman was forced to resign from the Luftwaffe because of his comments regarding F104.

  3. I don’t think the Germans ever intend to use them which is the crux of the problem so they are only interested in a solution that supports local industry. I’m surprised they don’t opt for a stealth UCAV, no reason why it would not be ready by 2025 if they actually put some effort into it.

  4. Well if they get typhoon presumably that would benefit us, with more aircraft going through the BAE production line. So hopefully they pick typhoon.

      • Seeing as the Germans already operate the Typhoon, it seems that they could buy both without a serious impact on affordability. That would cover all eventualities, especially if they bought the F35b which would improve their resilience to a first strike.

  5. As they don’t tend to actually use their aircraft in combat, I presume Typhoon’s job creation potential in Germany will win. And that would help out BAe as well, and, we might also get weapon orders as well.

  6. The only aircraft built in Europe that can match or exceed the weapon capability of Tornado is the latest Tranche of Typhoon. The F-35 (A or B) while partly built here will never deliver the same variety or weight of weapons a Typhoon can and as soon as you add wing pylons you lose all stealth. It isn’t designed to but can be very effective in entering a hostile environment, reducing that risk and enabling a massive Typhoon delivery. Now either German aircraft order will benefit the UK to the same extent but I can’t see the German unions allowing the German MoD to buy ‘foreign’ to the detriment of the only locally built fighter aircraft. After all it would be EADS doing the final assembly of a Typhoon but not an F-35.

    Having said that the Luftwaffe does have a record of keeping old aircraft flying for longer than anyone else … When did they retire their last Phantoms?

    Anyway the discussion is academic as the Yanks will do what they did with the F-104 Starfighter that became known as ‘The Widowmaker’ and bribe their way into a big US order….. But not necessarily an F-35.

    • The F35 concept of warfare is that you only use stealth on the first two days of war. “Third Day Of War” external weapons load configuration will far exceed what the typhoon can carry.

      If it’s down to raw warfighting capability the F35 wins.

      • I agree Chris – the Germans don’t need the F-35A.
        It’s highly unlikely the Luftwaffe will be joining the USAF during the first night of offensive air-operations against a modern, integrated air-defence network. Like many other countries buying F-35, the capabilities offered by the American jet are not needed.
        A versatile, 4.5 generation combat jet like Typhoon, able to penetrate hostile airspace at super-cruise speeds, and an altitude of 40, 000 feet, will more than meet German ground-attack requirements.

      • Mike – can you please define what total weapons any F-35 can deliver in one sortie that a Typhoon can’t? And here I mean like for like as a US F-35 will deploy locally different specific weapons.
        How many Brimstones?
        How many Storm Shadow?
        You say ‘far exceeds’ so this should be an easy exercise.

        I am somewhat confused how an F-35 with 6 × under – wing and 4 x internal pylons (10 total) and a total weapons payload of 8,100 kg can deliver more than a Typhoon with 8 × under-wing and 5 × under-fuselage pylon stations (13 total) holding in excess of 9,000 kg of payload

        • Chris,
          I was of the thought that in any major symmetrical war, the F35s would take out anti-air assets and such, which will allow the Typhoon bomb trucks to come up from behind to strut their stuff.

          • farouk – Basically you are right, although it is also hostile air defence radars and ground missiles but the Luftwaffe is looking for a Tornado replacement and as someone else commented because you won’t see any Luftwaffe in the early days of any conflict not inside Germany they don’t need an F-35 Stealth capability let alone any US built aircraft. Especially when they already build the best 4.5 Gen Swing Role QRA and bomb truck around called Typhoon.

          • Chris, the 5th generation aircraft with its ordnance when matched with the sensor fusion will offer a unravelled external weapons load configuration will far exceed what the typhoon can carry.

            So a F35 will hit more targets in all combat conditions whilst being immune to air defence systems.

            With regard to future weapons I was referring to laser weapons. Lockheed Martin is considering laser weapon concepts for use by the F-35 and other aircraft.

            https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/will-f-35-feature-laser-weapons-future/

            Laser weapons for typhoon?

        • The F35 will carry the weapons of tomorrow whereas the typhoon will carry the weapons of yesterday.

          Hence the statement “external weapons load configuration will far exceed what the typhoon can carry.”

          • Mike – that was a nice question dodging semantic. I expected better of you.
            Are you saying Meteor is a ‘yesterday weapon’ and not a next generation, active radar-guided, BVRAAM system? Is Storm Shadow a ‘yesterday weapon’ and not a low-observable cruise missile and deep-strike weapon? Is Brimstone a ‘yesterday weapon’ and not a pin point accurate ground attack weapon with limited collateral damage?

            What are these ‘weapons of tomorrow’ that only an F-35 can deliver?

          • There’s 1 thing no-ones mentioned. If you ‘buy’ the F35 in reality it comes with so many caveats and restrictions from the US about what you can and cannot replace, repair etc etc. That to all intents and purposes their not yours at all they’re on loan from the US. At least if they buy Typhoon they’ll be theirs. They’ll be able to do what they like with them.

        • Chris, I think you may have made a classic mistake regarding payload. Whilst on paper a typhoon can lift a bit more than an F-35, how far do you imagine it will fly? The answer is not anywhere useful.

          Most of the range performance listed for the typhoon (to bring it up to reasonable combat ranges) involve the aircraft carrying 3 tonnes of external fuel on three different hard points. Suddenly it’s not looking so favourable is it?

          People always forget about the tremendous amount of internal fuel carried by the F-35 and the advantages this brings.

  7. The Germans did their best to ditch Typhoon (they objected to that name!) in 1990 but wanted to retain their work share when they had their arm twisted despite ordering far fewer than planned. They blocked the introduction of the A.E.S.A. presumably because they could not produce one indigenously and the British work share would rise again. Every ‘partnership’ with our European allies has dramatically increased costs and delayed introduction into service. I do not know why the British persist with this dream factor idea for every advanced project.

  8. Its interesting, I recall the huge sigh of relief when the French withdrew from Typhoon program, then the huge problems of dealing with the West German Government and their endless procrastinating kicked off … that never really finished!

    So many issues with this project…. A production line in every country and multi national agreement for any modifications or upgrade has added huge expense, delay and cost International orders.

    That said, the batch 3 aircraft is an excellent and very capable machine, (just ask F22 pilots who have fought against it in extremely realistic BVR and WVR combat training) against the F35, is total overkill for the Germans and additional Tyhpoons are the only logical answer to this issue.

    As has been pointed out, the Germans don’t and won’t engage in combat, preferring us the French and the US to do it for them.

    In fact, the best aircraft for them would be Gripen E. That’s an affordable and capable machine, more than good enough for the limited German (actual) requirments.

    • With the benefit of hindsight, Europe should have developed two 4th generation combat aircraft. First a single engine low cost one (Grippen) and a more capable twin engine one (Typhoon/Rafale).

      Germany would have no doubt been happier with the Grippen type aircraft rather than other type.

      But as ever in Europe it’s politics before common sense, hence the mess we are in regards brexit.

      • Hi Mike, I don’t believe the Luftwaffe would have been happy with the Gripen.
        Just to recap, the Air Staffs of the European air forces involved (including the Luftwaffe) devised a specification for a new combat jet – and the proposal by the Eurofighter consortium met their demanding requirements.
        The French Rafale did not meet the spec – and neither would have the single-engined Gripen (essentially a Swedish F16). Just to recap, a Typhoon pilot on 29 Squadron, with a European exchange tour on the F16, told me that Typhoon makes the American jet feel like a trainer!
        Some might argue that Europe did produce a Hi/Lo combat jet family – Typhoon (Hi), Rafale (Lo).
        He lights the blue touch-paper, and walks away …………………….. LOL

        • My opinion is based on the fact that Germany opted out of EAP ( they declined to build a second EAP as was originally agreed) they delayed EF for years, they then wanted a low cost EF variant stone stage and so on.

          • Hi Mike
            With the reunification of Germany, their defence ministry was under severe pressure to deliver cost savings – and Volker Ruhe spun the idea of a low-cost Eurofighter. I think those discussions took place from 2002, but Ruhe did not gain the support of the other partner nations (and no doubt also the Luftwaffe!). Although funding was later adjusted to some extent.
            The political fall-out coincided with serious flight control issues with the prototype aircraft (which first flew in 2004). So, ultimately, may not have caused a significant delay.

  9. The Germans have an eye on cost of ownership. Reducing to a single type, Typhoon, could be cheaper overall even if purchase cost was higher if they don’t need the first day strike stealth.
    Another thought might be the F-35B. The orginal argument for Harrier GR was vulnerability of German airfields. I think I read somewhere the Israelis were interested in the B model for the same reason.

  10. Reading the all the comments, one can only come to the conclusion that FRG will be dependant on the USA for its defence whatever decision they make.

    Maybe the US should present Merkel with a bill to pay for it.

  11. I still stand by Gripen, whatever the Luftwaffe head shed say, they never deploy in a combat roll, so why waste German Tax payers money on expensive kit they will never use operationally?

    Gripen E is more than capable of meeting their (real) requirments!

  12. […] En noviembre informamos que el F-35 es la opción “preferida” de la lista de aviones que la Luftwaffe está mirando de acuerdo con un funcionario de alto rango que habla anónimamente bajo la Regla de Chatham House, quien le dijo a Jane’s 360: “El reemplazo del Tornado debe ser un avión de quinta generación que pueda detectarse lo más tarde posible, si es que lo hace. Debe ser capaz de identificar los objetivos desde una gran distancia y dirigirse a ellos lo antes posible. El Ministerio de Defensa alemán está estudiando varios aviones en la actualidad, incluido el F-35; ya está disponible comercialmente, ha sido ordenado por muchas naciones y se está introduciendo hoy en servicio, y tiene la mayoría de las capacidades requeridas”. Se espera que los funcionarios alemanes soliciten ofertas formales el próximo año. (Jesús.R.G.)Fuente: https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/ […]

  13. The Germans should buy typhoon. What they will get however is years or debate, a delayed order then an inadequate order delivering force levels far to low for any sustained combat requirement.
    this is how all of European defence (including the UK) manages defence procurement.
    Meanwhile in Russia Putin is bringing out limited numbers of new weapons but upgrading his current platforms and weapons types. Mig 29 M and K, Sukhoi su35m being good examples.
    The fact is that the whole of Europe has been happy to sit back, spend their money on infrastructure whilst USA and UK have footed the bill for European defence for the last 60 years.
    Time for Europe to man up and shoulder some of the responsibility. It would be nice…but it will never happen…if the European’s paid some of the costs of living underneath our protective nuclear deterrent.

  14. The Luftwaffe simply don’t deploy anywhere in a combat role, the German people simply won’t allow it full stop.

    I have grave doubts they would back up any other NATO country, so why waste any more money on new fighters ?
    They are better off just retiring the Tornados and just flogging around safe and sound in the bargain basement lightly equipped Typhoons they already own.

    Nothing against the Luftwaffe, just don’t see much point in them really…

  15. Germany woefully neglects its defence responsibilities, letting the USA, UK and others effectively foot the bill for its military security with borrowed money, whilst Germany runs a significant fiscal surplus. Germany is disgracefully self-serving and is an unreliable ally in practically every conceivable theatre.

    I think that most of the commentators here are correct in maintaining that Germany will buy additional Typhoons. The premier economic power in Europe should be committing to a 5th generation first day of war platform (F35), or at least a mix of the two aircraft. You can guarantee that the German government will demand greater workshare back from the UK despite the years of delay and capability downgrading they have inflicted on project partners.

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