Why a Nuclear-Armed Eurofighter Might Spell Big Trouble for the F-35

    Zachary Keck

    Security, Europe

    The move might signal that Germany does not want to purchase America’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

    Germany has officially asked the United States to explore certifying its Eurofighter aircraft to carry tactical nuclear weapons. The move might signal that Berlin does not want to purchase America’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

    Under NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangement, the United States bases tactical nuclear weapons in various countries in Europe. In the event of a conflict, Washington would release these weapons (the B61 gravity bomb) to the host nations, which would delivery them using their own nuclear-capable aircraft (flown by pilots trained in nuclear missions).

    Germany’s Air Force, the Luftwaffe, is one of the NATO countries that hosts U.S. tactical nuclear weapons and is equipped with delivery systems. In specific, the Luftwaffe has designated its Tornado fighters as its dual-use aircraft (i.e. ones capable of both conventional and nuclear missions). Although Berlin has around 85 Tornado fighters, these are rapidly aging and scheduled to be retired in 2025.

    Germany is known to be considering four different aircraft to replace the Tornados: the F-35, Boeing’s F-15 Eagle, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and an upgraded Eurofighter. It is believed that the United States would prefer Germany to select the F-35A as its next dual-use aircraft, although Washington does not officially take a position. Besides the fact that this is an American plane, the United States and other European partners have decided to make the F-35A their next dual-capable fighter. Thus, it is already being certified. At the same time, the F-15 and F/A-18 are also American planes and have both been certified to carry the B61. What really distinguishes the F-35 is that it is a fifth generation fighters with stealth capabilities.

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