Germany is to order 90 Typhoons, 30 F/A-18 Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growlers to replace its aging fleet of Tornado aircraft. 

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer officially informed the U.S. government of the decision on April 16, 2020, according to Der Spiegel. The mixed order will satisfy those demanding European industrial involvement.

“While we continue to await an official announcement, we remain committed to working in support of both the German and U.S. governments on this important procurement,” a spokesman for Boeing wrote in an email quoted in Time here.

“A combination of Hornets and Growlers is ideally suited to meet Germany’s strike fighter and electronic warfare aircraft requirements.”

The Super Hornet will fill a NATO requirement for Germany to field aircraft capable of dropping the B61 nuclear bomb, according to German publication Handelsblatt.

Competing against the F/A-18 was the F-35 and the Typhoon. The F-35, however, was knocked out of the race earlier in the year seemingly after pressure from Airbus.

Dirk Hoke, then Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Defence and Space, had warned the German government against the purchase of the F-35.

“As soon as Germany becomes an F-35 member nation, cooperation on all combat aircraft issues with France will die,” Hoke said in an interview with Welt Am Sonntag which can be found here.

Eurofighter CEO Volker Paltzo had earlier said:

“I am confident that Eurofighter Typhoon can provide a cost effective and attractive solution for Germany, which will deliver every capability and perform every mission the German Air Force needs. 

Eurofighter Typhoon is the logical choice for Germany: As well as providing all the capabilities the German Air Force needs, it also guarantees German sovereignty across many aspects, such as mission and maintenance data (there are no black boxes on Typhoon).  

It is also the least risk solution: Germany knows, uses and understands our aircraft.”

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Ian Skinner

So Germany intend to skip 5th generation combat aircraft.


Skip….is that not where they keep their Tornadoes now?



Paul H

Is this a cheap way out?


In some respects this is a cop out. They have gone for the cheaper option. The F18E/F is already cleared for nuclear ordinance, so there’s no money required to invest in developing Typhoon to do the same. It’s the same for the Growler, Eurofighter were in stages of developing an ECR version specifically to the German Airforce requirement, with Leonardo designing the jammers. Germany is buying off the shelf, so saving money again. They are looking a a Tranche 3B Typhoon, so basically what Kuwait are getting. It is too earlier yet to see if they get the full fat… Read more »

Mike Saul

The F18E/F has not be certificated to carry B61 nuclear weapons, nether has the F35 or Typhoon.

Although the F35 will be so once block 4 software becomes available.

The B61 is the only nuclear weapon available for use by the Luftwaffe.

The Germans have made a mistake they should have gone for the F35, but didn’t do so for political reasons.


Hi Mike, that’s partially correct. The F18F has the wiring already installed in the aircraft for the nuclear weapons panel and controller. These were part of the original build specification. The US Navy decided to stop carrying nukes on their carriers in the 90’s so actual requirement was dropped. But the engineering drawings for the aircraft’s build were never amended, hence why the aircraft still has the wiring installed. The aircraft has not been certified to carry nukes, but it will be a shorter amount of time to do so, compared with Typhoon, especially as part of the deal is… Read more »

Mike Saul

Thanks for the clarification.


Ordinance and ordnance have very different meanings!


Yes, the RAOC would become the Royal Army Ordinance Corps… out Papal indulgences on receipt of the correct flimsy 🙂


The Luftwaffe actually was in favour of procuring the F-35. But his was seen as a threath to the franco-german future fighter, which is the pillar of the grandiose European Armed Forces project. Once said fighter project was assured (at least until France, Germany and Spain have to find current ground with their requirement), the reasoning was about requiring a second seat in the fighter bomber role. There is a certain distrust in digital assistance systems with some top brass. And a third thing is the general idea of having a deterrence without being a threath. A nuclear armed F-35… Read more »

Nigel Collins

I assume the Growlers will be providing a short term EW capability until the upgrades?

Eurofighter upgrades announced by industry partners.

Nigel Collins

This is a very interesting development too.

“US Navy flies two EA-18G Growlers autonomously; third Growler used as controller”

Nigel Collins

I assume the German F/A-18 Super Hornets will be carrying these?

“The B61-12 LEP will consolidate and replace the existing B61 bomb variants in the Nation’s nuclear stockpile. The first production unit is on schedule for completion in fiscal year 2020.”


Short term cheap solution to tide them over whilst keeping France happy that they will be purchasing big numbers of the next gen fighter developed with them, reality however…………………


Hi folks,
As a side issue, can any of you experienced military experts advicse on the current condition of the German air force, I was under opinion that it is not in good shape, reading various articles on this site
Many thanks


Pretty much all branches of German military are the same, they buy decent kit but dont maintain it so it has low availability rates. Fact theyve only really had one major foreign deployment since WW2 probably played a part.

Daniele Mandelli

They will have a far bigger Fighter fleet than the RAF I think, with that lot as well as their existing Typhoons.

Our fighter force is too small.

We do however have things like carriers and SSNS, SSBNs, the later two where most the money is going!


It maybe bigger on paper but what could they put in the air. We however need a few more planes no doubt id even take some more current Gen if price was right to get numbers up.

Daniele Mandelli

Agree Geo, so would I.


Must be deals to be had for proven equipment that would enhance our skeletal RAF fighter/bomber force.

Daniele Mandelli

Skeletal is a fine description sadly. And some people want cuts?!!

I count 22 Squadrons in late 90’s as Labour came in. Down to 12 by the time the Tories arrived in 2010.

Would have been headed for 6 but for the retaining of the Tranche 1 Typhoons and fiddling the goalposts by artificially increasing the number of Typhoon squadrons to 7 with the same number of aircraft that previously equipped 5.

And yes, I appreciate the current aircraft are vastly more capable than the GR7’s, Jaguars, Tornado F3s and GR4’s. The balance between quality and quantity is not there.


I agree we need more numbers….current capable planes could offer a suitable uplift in numbers not exactly poor in capability either. Not every plane needs to F35 standard. In saying that id have bought more of them and given RAF some different versions….but in saying that if for price of another 30 F35s we got 50 capable cheaper current Gen….im not complaining.

Id have more F35s for carriers but that aint looking likely after Covid even at cut price.

Daniele Mandelli

Absolutely, I have suggested here for years a better balance is needed, that means some cheaper equipment that is still good enough but not the gold standard, to increase mass.

I think D Cummings has similar ideas.

Steve R

Do you have any particular aircraft in mind for this?

Personally I think we should be buying more Typhoons to replace the old Tranche 1s and grow the RAF a bit.

Daniele Mandelli

No. As it’s not for me to say but the experts. I know little of the capabilities of various aircraft.

It’s just a belief I have held for years that the only possible way to increase mass is by having a better balance.

What cheaper kit that meets that which is affordable yet still deadly and reliable is MoDs problem.

Steve R

Maybe F/A-18 Super Hornet is the way to go. Around £50million per airframe, which is much lower than either Typhoon or F35. Perhaps one way to go is to give all F35Bs to the navy and then have a RAF fleet of Typhoons and Hornets.

Could cut the F35 order to 80, say, allowing for 4 squadrons, 1 OCU and then 20 spare airframes, and use the money saved to buy Hornets, and some towards Tempest.

Paul T

Geo/Daniele – Absolutely,which is the reason some,including myself advocate the merits of an Aircraft like the Gripen,which obviously isn’t in the F35/Typhoon class but could do all of the roles they do bar Flying off of the Carriers for a much cheaper cost,and for those that say the cost per unit is not much different its the savings in operating costs that make it more attractive.


Bang on…..cant afford 400 F35s …..tbh should be getting more than 140 odd but……

To give numbers & reasonable capability we need planes that offer us that & we get a bang for our buck. Cant be F35 /Typhoon…..then Hawk 😆


One option outside of the usual bracket would be the Gripen… a decent all rounder yes not as capable as a Eurofighter or even a Super Hornet but it is relatively cheap Gripen C is between $30-60 million not sure on costs of the Gripen E and will be more importantly cheaper to operate…

Paul T

I read on another site that the problem with the Luftwaffe is not a lack of maintenance – quite the opposite.They have a very risk – averse safety culture and follow everything by the book.If say a Typhoon has a problem and needs a component replacing,the likelihood is that that item is not in their stock so they have to go to the Manufacturer to source that part,sidelining that Aircraft until the part arrives and can be fitted.If the RAF had the same problem with a Typhoon they would look to recover that part from an unserviceable Aircraft and then… Read more »


Thats where the logistics side of the maintenance chain comes in, you have to anticipate what will be required and pre-emptively stock it, otherwise anytime anything breaks you will be waiting months for spares to be fabricated. A couple of years ago the Luftwaffe only had 4 out of 110 Typhoons operable because they had no seals for cooling fluid.


I’ve never heard that being the reason why Germany has so many grounded aircraft I heard it’s simply because of budget and have a force to large for the budget


This decision to me is common sense. 2 very mature and proven platforms which are arguably “best aircraft of generation” status and can transcend the 4/5 generation threshold. The spec for the latest Eurofighter will be to take the best of all recent developments and add to it further – pushing the capabilities and longevity of the Eurofighter further. It means that Typhoon will be an aircraft that will stay at the cutting edge for decades yet. Read AFM for May, there is a full article. It will also help with possible export orders to Finland and Switzerland. Importantly for… Read more »


It makes a lot of sense as long as you never go to war with them. If we are talking some limited skirmish with Putin’s little green men, chances are they will have the latest Russian air defences. Against S-300/350/400/500/Pantsir, having a stealthy aircraft, such as the F-35A makes more sense than a non stealthy Super Hornet. The German general who wanted the F-35 was/is right. He got dumped on for speaking the truth. According to Yanis Varoufakis in his book “Adults in the room”, that is the German way of decision making. The F-35A would have given German forces… Read more »


Why is Airbus so worried about Germany acquiring the F35, surely their FCAS offering is superior with 6th Gen Tech. Acquiring the F35 has not prevented the UK progressing Tempest.


I thought this was an interesting German perspective on this issue

Nigel Collins

Equally interesting!

Royal Navy F/A-18 Exchange Pilots (2012)

Nigel Collins

Germany clearly appears to be upping its game.

Hensoldt reveals developmental airborne attack jammer for German luWES programme.

Steve R

I think the Germans have the right idea here and we should follow suit. F/A-18 Super Hornets, or the Growlers, are much cheaper than either Typhoon or F35 yet still highly capable and we could easily buy some to bulk out our aircraft numbers. It’s time we stopped having everything gold-plated but in pitiful numbers. My proposal would be this: cut the number of F35Bs planned from 138 to 80 (48 frontline, 12 OCU and 20 spares) and give them all to the Fleet Air Arm. Make them purely Navy. That reduction of 58 F35s saves around £5billion. Use that… Read more »

r cummings

That is a pretty sensible choice by Germany, with the obvious limitation that the F-18so are not going to be much use in an interdiction/attack role against Russian SAMS I would like to see us order a further 18 Typhoons to bring the FGR4 squadrons up to normal establishment of 12 front line aircraft. The only aircraft that is going to be much use against Russian SAMS is the F-35 . The interdiction task of hittingr enemy airfields and supply lines is a vital step to achieving air superiority and it is no use hoping F-18s or Saabs can do… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I’d support that Steve.

Nigel Collins