Bundeswehr Looks for Bridging Solution for Tornado Successor
(Source: German Ministry of Defense; issued April 22, 2020)
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
To avoid a direct confrontation with coalition partner SPD, German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Wednesday told the Bundestag that a final decision on the replacement of Tornado fighters is not necessary before 2022 or 2023. (GE MoD photo)
The German Ministry of Defense plans to begin procuring a replacement for the Tornado fighter jet in 2025. Two thirds of the fighter jets will come from Europe, but jets from the USA will also be bought.

It does its job faithfully, but is getting on in years: the Tornado fighter jet has been used by the German Air Force for around 40 years. Slowly but surely, it's time for a more modern weapon system. A successor is needed by 2030 at the latest. That is when the useful life of the multi-purpose combat aircraft, which can be equipped with nuclear weapons among other things, will end.

This is an important military capability of the Bundeswehr, and is required both by the Federal Government’s White Paper and by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies.

The new European fighter aircraft, which is being developed as part of the "Next Generation Weapon System" project with France and Spain, will not be available until 2040. Therefore, there must be a bridging solution based on models available on the market for the time after the Tornado has become obsolete and before the FCAS Future Combat Air System is launched. The development of FCAS Future Combat Air System should not be endangered.

The planning for this has already started, because time is short: "In order to maintain unbroken capability, procurement must start from 2025," the ministry said. "To be able to replace the Tornado in good time, the procurement process must therefore be started now."

The overall proposal will provide up to 93 new Eurofighters with advanced and expanded capabilities for the Bundeswehr. The Eurofighter will foreseeably form the backbone of the Air Force. Few special skills are to be temporarily replaced by another aircraft type. The plan is to purchase 45 [F-18E Super Hornet] aircraft as a bridging solution for nuclear [mission] participation and for airborne electronic combat.

Partner countries informed about projects

The Ministry of Defense relies on a mixed calculation. On the one hand, according to the ministry, investments should be made in “developing the capabilities of the German and European defense industries” in order to maintain and promote their own technical and industrial know-how. On the other hand, the US fighter jets that will be bought are already fully developed and available on the armaments market.

Initial talks with the US administration have already been held. The partner nations France and Great Britain were also informed of the planning process.

Purchase decision in two years at the earliest

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer's proposal was presented to the Defense Committee of the Bundestag on Wednesday. If the deputies agree with the proposal, the detailed planning begins.

These should be presented to parliament in the next legislative period - in other words, in 2022 at the earliest, probably in 2023. The Bundestag will then make the final decision on the investment.

"Knowing the established, also parliamentary, processes, we are only at the beginning of a procurement that will take years," said the Ministry of Defense.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The German defense minister’s decision to split the Tornado replacement by buying 45 Boeing Super Hornet fighters as well as 93 Eurofighters has come under criticism in Germany, mostly because it kicks the final decision into the next government period to avoid a direct confrontation with coalition partner SPD over the nuclear strike mission.

“A decision on the replacement of the Tornado fighter-bombers is years overdue. It's good that Defence Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer is finally putting this on the agenda,” Matthias Wachter, Head of the Security & Raw Materials Department at the Federation of German Industries (BDI), said in an April 23 statement.

“Unfortunately, the proposed compromise has major weaknesses,” he added: “the F-18 is not certified for nuclear sharing, which means a considerable financial and time risk to achieve. Purchase of Growler also contradicts European efforts in electronic warfare. It is furthermore very problematic that final decision shall only be made by the next Bundestag in 2022/2023.”

The German business daily Handelsblatt voiced similar criticism in an article published today. The Minister’s decision “further delays the ordering of Tornado's successors [and] is a missed opportunity to send a clear signal for European arms procurement in Europe. Of course, it is embarrassing for Airbus if the Bundeswehr does not trust its home supplier to build a Eurofighter for electronic warfare in a reasonable amount of time.

“With a view to closer military cooperation in Europe….more arms industry policy is necessary. However, if a large EU country purchases more than necessary in the United States at the first technical hurdle, defense cooperation no longer remains a good intention,” it added.

Finally, it is ironic that Airbus and Eurofighter should now complain about the proposed purchase of Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft after having ignored the German requirement for years.)


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