US Air Force F-35 jets deploy to Lithuania
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Germany has opted to buy US-made fighter jets instead of British aircraft to bolster its aerial fleet in light of the war in eastern Europe. After announcing funds to improve military stockpiles in February, Germany signed its first deal using the allocated £86billion package on Wednesday, purchasing nearly three dozen F-35 jets, made by Lockheed Martin, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The deal is part of Germany’s attempts to honour its NATO pledges on military spending, though the fighter planes will only be used if called upon to engage in combat. The deal has been seen as a snub to the British manufacturer BAE Systems, in partnership with Airbus and Italian company Leonardo, as Germany was understood to be deciding between the F-35 jets and BAE’s Eurofighter Typhoons.
Replacing the ageing Tornado warplanes, which date back to the 1970s, the first batch of aircraft is expected to be ready for delivery by 2026. The 35 planes will carry atomic weapons produced by the USA.
Germany was also considering the F/A-18 jets built by Boeing but decided to go with the F-35, designed by the same company that is leading the hypersonic missile programme in the US.
Though Germany had announced in March it would buy the F-35 warplanes, “delays and additional costs” were among concerns that pushed the deal back.
It is understood that the F-35 was preferred to the Eurofighter Typhoons because the British-made planes would need certification to carry the 20 B-61 nuclear gravity bombs Germany houses as part of its Nato commitment. The F-35, however, is already capable of carrying newer versions of the missile.
In a statement, the US Embassy in Germany said: “The US Foreign Military Sales Program will manage the procurement which includes mission planning systems, munitions, logistics, and training.
“Germany’s F-35 program will ensure Germany’s continued NATO commitments without interruption and will ensure NATO’s credible deterrence well into the future.
“The US-German defence relationship has never been stronger and is a key pillar of NATO’s transatlantic partnership.
“Considering current security challenges, including Russia’s war in Ukraine, close collaboration between Allies is more critical than ever.
“The United States greatly values this opportunity to cooperate closely with Germany to enhance NATO’s deterrence and collective defence, improve Allied and Partner interoperability, and contribute to increased security in Europe and beyond.”
The procurement of the F-35 jets was signed off by the German parliament’s budget committee on Wednesday.
It is the first deal to be signed using the funds allocated by Mr Scholz’s £86billion package of defence spending in February.
Germany has set a target of replacing all of their Tornado warplanes by 2030.
It will buy the larger F-35A variant of the warplane, which is designed to be flown from airfields. British forces currently operate the B variant of the aircraft from its two Queen Elizabeth II class aircraft carriers, which are capable of short takeoff and vertical landing.
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Prior to the deal, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell admitted that the war in Ukraine had been a “brutal wake-up” that highlighted “years of under-investment” in military stockpiles.
Post-Cold War spending on military equipment across Europe has been ostensibly neglected for decades.
Mr Borrell said: “This war against Ukraine has been a brutal wake-up for many of us. We realise that our military stockpiles have been quickly depleted due to years of under-investment.”
During a conference on Tuesday, Germany also pledged a further €30million (£26million) “for the purchase of equipment for restoring Ukraine’s energy infrastructure damaged by Russian shelling”.
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