BERLIN --- Germany is pressing Washington to clarify whether it would let the Eurofighter Typhoon carry nuclear bombs as part of shared Western defenses, an issue that could help decide whether Berlin orders more of the jets, sources familiar with the matter said.
Although not a nuclear power, Germany hosts some U.S. nuclear warheads under NATO’s nuclear-sharing policy and operates a number of Tornado warplanes that can deliver them. New jets will need to be certified by Washington to carry out nuclear missions, a process which can take years.
Germany’s defense ministry sent a letter to the U.S. Defense Department in April asking whether certification of the European jets was possible, how much it would cost, and how long it would take, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Top U.S. Air Force and Pentagon officials are working to respond to the German query, the sources said.
The multi-billion-euro tender to replace Germany’s fleet of 89 Tornados, which are due to retire in the middle of the next decade, pits the Typhoon against several U.S. contenders at a time of strains in transatlantic ties.
Executives with Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Boeing are making presentations to the defense ministry this week after submitting reams of information on their respective warplanes in April, with the formal launch of the competition expected later this year, industry sources said.
The German defense ministry declined comment on the issue. (end of excerpt)
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