BERLIN --- The German military needs a “fifth-generation” replacement for its Tornado fighter jets that is hard to detect on enemy radars and can strike targets from a great distance, the chief of staff of the air force said on Wednesday.
Lieutenant General Karl Muellner’s comments are his clearest public statements to date on the Tornado replacement program. They indicate a preference for Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter jet, the only Western aircraft that meets those requirements.
The air force last month issued a formal request for information about the F-35, as well as three other jets: the F-15 and F/A-18E/F, both built by Boeing Co, and the European Eurofighter Typhoon.
Germany is kicking off the process of replacing its 85 Tornado jets, which will go out of service around 2030.
The program could be worth billions of euros for the winning bidder in coming years.
Muellner told Reuters Germany would need to buy an off-the-shelf replacement that could enter service around 2025 to facilitate a smooth transition with the Tornado, noting that did not leave enough time to develop a unique solution.
But he said changing warfare requirements and the need for a credible deterrent meant the successor fighter had to be “low-observable, and able to identify and strike targets from a great distance”.
“It will have to be a fifth-generation jet to meet the full spectrum of our needs,” Muellner said. (end of excerpt)
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