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The German Air Force has issued a formal request for information about the F-35, as well as three other jets with the F-35 being their ‘preference’.

The other jets are the F-15 and F/A-18E/F.

Germany is replacing its 85 Tornado jets, which will go out of service around 2030.

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.”

Based on these requirements, it’s hard to see any alternative to Lockheed Martin’s F-35. The Luftwaffe would be able to benefit from expanding infrastructure to support the jets in Europe.

40 COMMENTS

  1. “The Luftwaffe would be able to benefit from expanding infrastructure to support the jets in Europe.”

    Can anyone paint a picture of how the UK F-35s would be maintained, in particular how much maintenance will be done in the UK and how much will need to be shipped out of the UK to do (e.g. engines to Turkey I believe)? Presumably Germany would be looking at a similar set up unless it can get some specialist centre(s) in Germany as a sweetener for going F-35.

    From what I’ve understood (or possible misunderstood) the UK might have about 15% of production work but it doesn’t have any of the specialist maintenance centres for Europe or am I wrong on that?

    • The UK has the all important avionics facility at Mod Sealand.

      Their Gr4’s will be in a state by 2030. Ours are knackered now.

    • Very wrong. The UK has been selected as the global repair hub for all of Europe’s F35s. This facility is based at MOD Sealand in Wales and is projected to earn us several billion in revenue over the life of the program and support thousands of jobs in the UK.

      Combine this with the 15-30% of the F35 that the UK builds supports 25,000 jobs across the UK and earns us an estimated 1 Billion minimum from the aircraft production.

    • I believe there are some mistakes above.

      We get assemble the arse ends as a Tier 1 partner. The UK got the Avionics site at Sealand.

      Italy, a Tier 2 partner, after threatening withdrawal got the only complete assembly plant outside the US. It also obtained the major European airframe maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade (MRO&U) facility for Europe. All major work “Heavy MRO&U” for RAF jets will be performed at Cameri in Italy.

      Turkey, a tier 3 partner, employed similar threats and extracted the only European major engine overhaul facility and also I believe the only carbon fibre fabrication plant. Turkey was selected, to provide “Heavy Engine MRO&U” and deep maintenance of all engines for all F-35 aircraft based in Europe.

      So the UK as a Tier 1 will have to have its F35 engines overhauled in Turkey and other major maintenance performed in Italy. Sealand gets avionics and ejector seats. Marham gets to check the oil and water and tyre pressures and will provide backup if Cameri is too busy to cope.

      Just one more example of tough UK negotiating extracting the best deal for UK plc.

      https://www.f35.com/news/detail/f-35-mrou-initial-component-global-assignments-made-by-dod

      • This is an identical post to your previous. Its clear that the Turkish engine overhaul weighs on your mind heavily. Read the report as to the reasons. Engine overhaul is labour intensive and the Turks provide relatively low labour costs and as many of the engine parts will be from the US or UK (assuming the lift fan is part of that deal – though it may not be) then it should be cheaper. However, Turkey is not the long term engine overhaul base, Norway and others will eventually supply that need. I like many here believe the UK has a great deal and it will keep many UK people in work for decades to come.

        • David.
          I was responding to the apparent misconceptions in the earlier posts. Incidententally it is NOT identical to my earlier post and contains new information.
          Turkey. Labour costs. We are not talking about a sweat shop operation here but highly skilled engineers. The Turkish facility has been designated the main engine overhaul facility for all of Europe. It is expected all European F-35’s will have their engines overhauled there for the next 55 years. Norway and Holland will provide the backup, just as Marham will do for the airframe overhauls in Italy.
          Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 SAM system and the drift away from a secular democracy to an authoritarian Islamic state most surely pose the question, was going for cheap labour all that much of a bargain. Russian technicians will soon be training Turkish SAM operators, using F-35’s as practice targets.
          About the engines. Rolls is only providing the Lift fan,Roll Ducts and Swivel Nozzels. They have been almost complete frozen out by Pratt +Whitney, the sole engine suppliers. UK industry has no other involvement in engine supply. This lack of involvement by UK industry is repeated in most other critical areas. GE Avation is quoted as UK participation, providing significant data,sensor, electrical systems. But this is GE of Ohio and not to be confused with the old British GEC which was killed off by American and EU interests over 10 years ago.
          I note you make no comment on Italy and their allocation of the main location for airframe maintenance as well as obtaining one of the 3 complete final assembly facilities. I may be being cynical here but it is worth noting that after Italy was awarded these 2 major facilities it cut its order from 131 to 90 aircraft. It may have been too embarrassing to re-assign one of these facilities. Italy was however sanctioned and the order for it to produce 1,215 sets of wings was reduced to 835 sets after it reduced its order.
          One final comment, the Turkish Engine MRO&U facility is planned to support 1400 + jobs. Italy’s Final Assembly and Check Out facility and the Airframe MRO&U facility are expected to support 750+ and 900 + jobs respectively. The MOD when announcing that Sealand was to be the European Avionics MRO&U facility indicated this would be supporting 400 jobs.

    • I know what a joke. I really wish the uk just went ahead with Taranis on its own. Its already imvest the majority of the R&D in the programme and just handing it iver to France for what will be a small workshare on the majority of eventual units ordered.

        • Taranis and Neuron are very similar concepts and it makes sense for us to collaborate, but its a pity that working with the French (and Germans) ends up being so one sided that building trust is almost impossible.

          I have read that the joint venture has chosen an underperforming French engine instead of a RR engine. For me this is ridiculous, Europe can only have one engine manufacture and that needs to be RR who have the innovation and history to take on P&W.

          Yet another example of parochialism by the French and stupidity by the British. When will we learn that Yorkshire agreements mean nothing to these people.

    • The Franco-German aircraft project is to replace the Eurofighter Typhoons in German use, as well as the Dassault Rafale in French use.

      Both of these current 4.5 generation systems are slated to be in service until around 2050, at which point a replacement for them is to be found. This project aims at building a new aircraft to fulfill that role.

      It should be noted that the UK also operates the Eurofighter Typhoon as I’m sure many of you here are keenly aware, and it too has a lifespan until around 2050.

      This news of Germany looking into the F-35 to replace the Panavia Tornado has absolutely nothing to do with the Franco-German project, which is still in pre-design phase and isn’t set to be completed until the 2040s. Add 10 years to work out the kinks and get production going and you’re looking at an aircraft to replace the Typhoon.

      BAE has shown interest in cooperating in the project as well, since the Royal Air Force is pretty much a copy of the German Air Force right now, and it is likely to face the retirement of the Typhoon in the 2050s as well.

      But hey, this doesn’t fit into the Brexiteer narrative so you may just as well ignore this and point and laugh at the perceived failings of continental powers instead if that suits you better.

  2. The only logical choice for the Luftwaffe is to procure the F35A to replace it’s Tornado fleet any notion of European platform is fanciful nonsense.

    A fifth generation combat aircraft is far superior to previous generational aircraft like typhoon.

    I understand the requirement is for around 80 aircraft, so a contract worth around US$16bn based on the Norwegian costings.

    • Hi Mike,
      I see you’ve still got it in for the Typhoon! LOL
      (Although it was built by a European consortium, Eurofighter – the Brits did design most of the important bits: like the cockpit, the radar, the flight-control system, and the engines. You should be proud of the boys and girls at Warton etc !)
      Seriously, I think it might be more accurate to state that: F-35 is superior to a 4.5 generation jet like Typhoon in some flight-profiles, and far superior to earlier combat aircraft. (Apologies for marking your homework!)
      I can understand why the Luftwaffe may want to procure the F-35A – but with Germany’s political restrictions on combat operations, it’s surely not a wise allocation of scarce resources. The Luftwaffe is unlikely to join the United States Air Force on the first night of offensive air operations against a modern, integrated air-defence network. Therefore, Germany is unlikely to need the full capabilities offered by the F35.
      A much more appropriate use of German financial resources would be the purchase of additional later-tranche Typhoons: with a second crew member, advanced weaponry – and perhaps conformal fuel tanks. It would also allow Germany to maximise its investment in the Typhoon programme – and also generate additional work around other European partners. Surely, an important consideration for such worthy Europeans as German politicians!
      As always, good to debate with you, Mike.

      • Haven’t got it in for typhoon, but it’s a 4th generation aircraft.

        The uplift in technology from one generation to another will make typhoon obsolete compared to the F35.

        I am very that UK industry, including BAE make 15% of every F35 manufactured.

        • BAE manufacture the back-end of the F-35 at Samlesbury; it’s a good source of revenue and employment – but the Americans are keeping the build of all the important bits in their own factories.

  3. I believe Germany is may only be putting in a bid now because of Erdogan’s diplomatic spats making likely the engine maintenance center won’t get final approval by the US government.

    Possibly thinking if they place a large bid now they will get the engine maintenance facility? They might be correct, however I think Italy or the UK are much more likely due to already planned construction.

  4. Just goes to show, if you build it – they will come. After years of kicking the F-35 around, cost overruns, software failures, more cost overruns, too expensive, not fit for purpose even the Germans are interested in buying them.
    If you have confidence in the product and are willing to see it through to the end you get the rewards.
    Imagine if the UK had the ambition and confidence to do something like that – I doubt that field of dreams is going to come true anytime soon.

    • Pfft let’s just spend the next 20 years making a harrier that goes the speed of light and can teleport and can fire highly trained combat kittens that have machine guns mounted on their backs. Oh and it should also have it’s very own forcefield.

      There’s the dream lets make it happen boys!

    • Surely British engineers have had the vision and confidence. TSR2, Lightning, Canberra, Buccaneer…..Tornado, EAP-Typhoon. Problem is the miserable negative civil servants and politicians.

        • But I think we can build Taranis and make sure that a F35 controls unto 4 of these from a standoff position sending the Taranis to their targets and delivering a payload.

          You could argue that an F35 is overkill for this role – but it would give us an edge if a single F35b could control 2/4 of these through a MADL interface and create a 21st century bombe command.

          Good leverage of our F35 fleet and value for money replacement of the Tornado fleet, long term and something our allies probably would want to purchase.

  5. I think the days of manned combat flight are ending. F35 series probably will be the last generation of manned combat aircraft.
    The idea of deploying a mothership F35 to control a squad of tarranis UAVs is a good idea, although can tarranis not be controlled by a UAV controller located thousands of miles away? Like our reaper drones?
    I would like the uk to go for the advanced robotic advantage and ignore/ not contribute to this EU dream project.
    For the developmental costs of this new European 5th/6th generation aircraft we could purchase, arm and deploy hundreds of stealthy drones with lower operating costs, better endurance and a smaller radar cross section than any manned aircraft.

  6. My views on Germany purchasing F35 are this
    1) they have contributed zero to developmental costs and thus by all means can purchase the aircraft but only after deliveries to partner nations are completed
    2) In no way should Germany be given any maintenance or regional site as they are late to the party and do not even spend the required 2% gdp to defence ratio mandated by NATO (although neither does the UK really)
    3) the risk of technological transfer to our EU friends and allies has to be balanced against their current belligerence to the UK and USA. Is Germany our friend and Ally? well that remains to be seen. Recent history would indicate no (just happens to be armistice day today and it needs to be remembered that in the last 100 years most of the UKs wealth and some 2.5 million British lives have been lost containing Germanic desire to dominate Europe.

    • For the record, Mr B & Daniele – This reader certainly doesn’t agree with the sentiments of (3).
      I’ve visited Germany many times (I’m sure you have as well), and I can’t equate your comments with my experience of modern Germany.
      Friends and allies – yes, certainly. (Although that relationship will be put under temporary strain following our Brexit decision).
      On this of all days, lets honour our war-dead (about 720,000 in WW1 & 350, 000 in WW2) – and remember their sacrifice. But lets also move on – and not keep alive the animosities of the past.

  7. Considering the UK has spend a small fortune in modifying the Typhoon for the ground attack role to replace the Tornado, maybe it would be cheaper for Germany to buy more Typhoons to the UK specification?

  8. Sorry Allen
    your numbers are not right
    750,000 military losses in WW1+ 19,000 merchant seamen + 7500 civilian dead.
    WW2 357,000 military losses + over 125,000 civilians due to blitz + 52000 merchant seamen. These are facts and should not be forgotten or not remembered.
    With regards Brexit the actions of the EU are deeply troubling. They have no gratefulness for their freedom their right to free speech or
    even an appreciation of how much monetary value we as a nation have spent securing those freedoms and then defending them throughout the cold war. It is deeply insulting that they state we owe them money. Utterly disgusting and abhorrent behaviour fuelled by greed, convenient memory loss and thus we should walk away paying them precisely zero.
    The money saved can then go to the NHS Education and defence in equal proportion.
    I am talking as someone who has lived in Germany but also reads and understands recent history. Something the EU clearly has not done.
    It is a simple process either they are our friends and want free and equitable trade without a massive punishing bill or they are not.
    however the EU needs to be told clearly if they are not there for us we will not be there for them. An ally has to behave like an ally.

    • Agreed Mr Bell, this country has paid a very high price indeed to liberate Europe.

      A price we should all reflect on today…

      The way we are being treated by the EU is utterly disgraceful. The fact is they simply can’t allow us to leave” easily” as it would set a precedent and quite possibly be a catalyst for the unraveling of the Federal European project.

      With regards Defence, the Germans really do pay lip service, they couldn’t respond to anything other than a very minor skirmish, such is the low readiness of their woefully underfunded Armed forces.

      The thought of a Franco German sixth Gen fighter is equally laughable, it will never happen, no chance..

    • Sorry Mister Bell, I didn’t realise you’d posted a reply.
      And I see you’ve been doing some serious research! Casualty figures are always a controversial subject – and it does depend on what sources you read, and the methodology they use; but I wouldn’t dispute approximately 750, 000 deaths from all the services in WW1.
      I think your figure of civilian deaths in WW2 is rather too high; a figure I commonly read is 65-70K from direct military action.
      But even using your own research, we can certainly state your original assertion that some, “2.5 million British lives have been lost containing Germanic desire to dominate Europe” was exaggerated.
      I think some of your comments regarding Brexit are also exaggerated.
      Following a democratic vote, the UK is leaving the European Union in March 2019. Our European friends have respected that decision, and see us go with genuine sadness. We walk away freely, and in extremis – could let an international court settle any bills or liabilities.
      The current unsightly squabble over money is because the UK has linked it’s departure to future trading arrangements with the EU, and special access to its markets. We are conducting trade talks, and it’s not unsurprising that this has resulted in a monumental haggle over money. I believe Brexiters always rather undersold the complexity of these negotiations.
      I agree the UK paid a very high price to liberate Europe, although we were also defending our own national interests in doing so. We should certainly respect our wartime generations, but we must also stop viewing our friends and neighbours across the Channel through the prism of WW1 & WW2.

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