MADRID --- After investing €10.6 billion on the European fighter plane, it turns out that Spain’s future military aircraft will in all likelihood be American-made. The Spanish Air Force and Navy have their sights set on the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, made by Lockheed Martin, to replace the F-18s and vertical take-off Harriers that will be decommissioned halfway through the next decade.
An estimated 45 to 50 aircraft will be required for the Spanish Air Force and another 12 to 15 for the Navy. The program could represent spending of over €6 billion, and more than double that considering the logistical support required to keep the aircraft operational.
There is no alternative for the Navy, if it wants to maintain its naval aviation capacity – the ability to launch air power from a ship. The Navy will have to gradually decommission its remaining AV-8B Harrier II Plus aircraft, and the only planes available on the market capable of Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (V/STOL) are the F-35s. Without them, the Navy’s flagship Juan Carlos I would be reduced to the category of helicopter carrier.
Navy officials are aware that the F-35 is too expensive (between €90 and €130 million a unit, not counting the engine) and that their order of 12 to 15 planes would be too small for any meaningful negotiating margin. But things would be different if the Air Force decided to order the same model, said high-ranking Navy officials.
The future fighter aircraft is one of the priorities of the new Armed Forces Capacity Objective slated for approval before the end of this year, said General Fernando Alejandre, the new chief of the defense staff. The goal is to replace the F-18 fighters, which, together with the Eurofighter and the EF2000, are at the forefront of the Spanish Air Force’s aircraft program. (end of excerpt)
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