Germany wants to assess the interest of the F-35 to replace its Tornado

"Oh, What a Surprise" will say the most cynical. According to the German site Die Zeit, the new Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht would indeed have undertaken to reconsider the decision of the one who preceded her in the function, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who in 2020 had arbitrated in favor of the acquisition of 30 Boeing F / A 18 E / F Super Hornet fighter-bombers and 15 EA-18G Growler electronic warplanes in order to replace respectively the Tornado dedicated to NATO's shared nuclear mission, and the Tornado ECR for electronic warfare and the suppression of the adversary's anti-aircraft defenses. According to the article, the German Minister, in agreement with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, would have launched a consultation to study the relevance of acquiring F-35A rather than Super Hornets, but also an electronic warfare version of the Typhoon instead and instead of the Growler, to replace the Tornado dedicated to these missions. The question is, does she really have other choices ?

Indeed, the refereeing of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer looked more like a boot in touch, than a real decision, so many unknowns remained. In the first place, neither the Pentagon, nor NATO, nor even the US Navy had hitherto considered qualifying the Super Hornet to use NATO's standard nuclear bomb, the B61-Mod12. The only devices to be qualified for this ammunition were, in 2020 when the German decision was announced, the F-35A, the F15E, the F16 C / D and the B2 Spirit. By favoring the Super Hornet over Lightning 2, Berlin therefore hoped to induce Washington to change its positions, and to integrate the device into the nuclear weapon qualification program. But this was not the case, and for the time being, no decision in favor of this qualification has been announced across the Atlantic, especially since the 4 other countries participating in this NATO shared deterrence mission, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey, are implementing or have planned to do so, F-35A or F-16 (case of Turkey). In other words, outside of Berlin, no one needs a B61-Mod12 qualified Super Hornet.

The 2021 black streak appears to continue for Boeing's Super Hornet, which sees its biggest potential customer, Germany, pull away again and reconsider the F-35A hypothesis

In addition, although the American aircraft has participated in all the major recent competitions against the F-35 as against the Rafale and the Typhoon, it has not won in any of them, and has no longer recorded export orders since 2015 and the Kuwaiti order. He was notably eliminated from the 3 most promising competitions for him aiming to replace F / A 18 Hornets in Canada, Finland and Switzerland. replacing the Iberian Hornets, or in India to equip the aircraft carriers of the countries, they are, according to many observers, low at best. Finally, the US Navy intends to stop the acquisition of new aircraft by fiscal year 2023, the 12 aircraft ordered in 2022 having only been ordered by Congress decision to maintain the Saint-Louis production line. in activity.

In other words, the future of the Super Hornet is more than uncertain, even in the short term, and betting on this device for Berlin was undoubtedly a risk, in part conditioned by political pressure from Paris to preserve the Franco-German SCAF program from any potential interference related to the acquisition of F-35s. However, the difficulties encountered today, and which lead to a reassessment of the arbitration made in 2020, were at the very least predictable. We can therefore wonder to what extent the sequence which opens today was not anticipated by the German authorities. Indeed, a decision in favor of the F-35 would undoubtedly have created significant tensions in the Franco-German couple about the SCAF program in 2020, while it was still in its infancy. On the other hand, it is unlikely, today, that France will react with so much determination in the face of a change of direction from Berlin on this issue, now that the agreements and funding for the design phase of the demonstrators have been endorsed. on both sides of the Rhine, at the risk of threatening the sustainability of this strategic program for the French executive.

The Luftwaffe is today the only European air force to have an aircraft dedicated to electronic warfare and suppression missions, the Tornado ECR

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