German government leaders on Wednesday announced a deal to buy 35 F-35 fighter jets from the United States, a package the Pentagon estimated was worth $8.4 billion in its summer offer.
The signing of the letter of acceptance ends Berlin’s years-long effort to replace part of the aging Tornado fleet, which is tasked with complying with NATO’s doctrine of sharing nuclear weapons. German officials decided to build the Lockheed Martin jet in the spring and began the process of purchasing aircraft, weapons and spare parts.
Parliamentarians approved this budget in the meeting of the Parliament’s budget committee on Wednesday. It is part of a $14 billion procurement package that Germany’s defense leaders will use to improve medium-range military capabilities in the coming years, building on a $107 billion special defense fund created after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. will do
“It is an honor to officially welcome Germany to the F-35 Lightning II program,” said Bridget Lauderdale, vice president and general manager of the F-35 program at Lockheed Martin. Germany’s participation ensures that the European F-35 alliance continues to strengthen and grow through cooperation with NATO and allied nations.
German pilot training with the first new aircraft is expected to begin in the United States in 2026. Those activities are to be transferred to Germany next year, before the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, declares its initial operational capability in 2028.
That timeline is of particular concern to Germans because it requires facilities at the country’s F-35 base, Bueschel, in western Germany, to be ready to house the modern aircraft by 2027.
Luftwaffe chief of staff General Ingo Gerharts told reporters in Berlin today that officials are considering a general contractor with experience building infrastructure for the F-35. The plan, he said, is to streamline the permitting and construction process, which other officials say could take six or seven years to reach the projected 2027 target.
Military spokespersons in Berlin could not immediately say on Wednesday which contractor Gerhardt was referring to. In April, neighboring F-35 user Belgium, which plans to upgrade 1950s and 1960s infrastructure at Florence and Kleinbrueghel air bases by 2025, granted a Belgian-Dutch-American license. A consortium led by Jan De Nul signed a contract worth US$692 million for the work.
Following Berlin’s purchase of sixth-generation fighters, Lockheed Martin expects to engage with local industry in early 2023 to place German subcontractors on the F-35 program, a company spokesperson told Defense News.
There are generally restrictions on giving local work to international F-35 customers because the jet contains secret technologies that only the US government and its contractors are allowed to service.