Germany Versus France: The ‘MAWS’ Scenario Again?
(Source: Special to; posted Feb. 18, 2022)

By Alistair McDavidson

On March 9, the German Government will decide on the FY2022 budget. It is widely expected that it will also take a decision on the purchase of the F-35 in the following weeks.

The rationale

The decision will be a sound one. Germany has two problems it can solve by one acquisition: the F-35.

The first problem is the replacement of the Tornado in its version of nuclear bomber, carrying the B-61. The Lightning is the sole 5th generation-fighter to be certified by the National Nuclear Security Administration whose last public release has confirmed the fact:

“The B61-12 LEP is critical to sustaining the Nation’s air delivered nuclear deterrent capability. It will be air-delivered in either gravity or guided drop modes and is being certified for delivery on current strategic aircraft (B-2A) and dual capable aircraft (F-15E, F-16C/D & MLU, PA-200) as well as future aircraft platforms (F-35, B-21).”

Being a reliable partner is a second concern of the German Government. Ukrainian crisis or not, Berlin sticks to its longstanding position of a trustful ally inside and for NATO.

The solution

This explains why a big deal is under study and could take shape in the following weeks:

-- Acquisition by Berlin of 30/45 F-35A;
-- Acquisition of 80/85 EF-2000 (Quadriga and SEAD version) for conventional Tornado missions & reconnaissance & suppression function (SEAD/DEAD);
-- Acquisition by the U.S.A.F of the Airbus tanker sold by an Airbus-Lockheed-Martin consortium (160 aircraft?).

It should however be noted that Berlin did not ask for the latest information available on the F-35, a gesture that Berlin would like Washington to interpret as follows: the decision in principle was taken in favour of the acquisition of the F-35 but awaits an American gesture in return, whose importance is such that Berlin remains cautious…

The problems & the MAWS scenario
The reciprocity that this big deal demands is certainly the most challenging problem. After a lost campaign on air tankers, has Airbus really a chance of coming back in such conditions?

Moreover, one can imagine that Boeing will not stay inactive when faced with a deal which excludes both its fighters (in Germany) and its tankers (in the US).

Boeing’s opposition will meet another from Paris.

In 2019, the French pressure were sufficiently to stop any F-35 deal, but since a new coalition has taken office and has reversed priorities: NATO’s commitment now comes before French alliance.

For people who look back in the past, this German decision is nothing new since it is a remake of June 1963, where the Bundestag, pressured by the U.S diplomacy, imposed the addition to the Elysee Treaty (January 1963) of a preamble which recalled the importance of NATO and free trade, against a bilateral defence and customs union.

Viewed from Paris, buying the F-35 would reproduce the ‘MAWS’ scenario, where a major bilateral project was given up to instead buy the U.S alternative (the P-8A in that particular case).

After having spent between €5Bn for the F-35A and €5Bn for the new EW-version of the Eurofighter, how many euros will be left for the New Generation Fighter?


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