German Air Force (Luftwaffe) plans to buy 93 Eurofighter Typhoons and 45 US-made Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to replace part of the Panavia Tornado fleet, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on April 21, emphasising that the US planes satisfied NATO requirements. Amid growing criticism over her decision to include US-made aircraft in the mix, the F-18s were needed as “bridging technology”. The Typhoon, which would require from three to five years longer than the F/A-18 Super Hornet, was too long as the German Tornados are set to retire by 2025, 2030 at the latest. An advanced Franco-German fighter dubbed the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) is not expected to be ready until 2040.
Minister told Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper “To retire the present fleet of Tornado aircraft, the Luftwaffe (airforce) must maintain certain capabilities, and she told the German daily “it has to be said, that currently only US manufacturers are offering” the capacity to carry nuclear weapons. In a letter to parliament’s defence committee, the minister underscored that the Boeing-built jets would allow Germany to meet its NATO nuclear sharing duties as they can carry US atomic warheads. The minister stressed however that Eurofighters would be the “backbone of the Luftwaffe”.
As part of NATO nuclear sharing, participating countries have to operate at least one type of aircraft capable of carrying one of the estimated 190 U.S. B61 nuclear bombs stockpiled on their soil. This agreement negotiated secretly during the Cold War was meant for a quicker response to any nuclear threat coming from Russia. The Panavia Tornado was, until now, the designated aircraft of the Luftwaffe, the German air force, for NATO nuclear capabilities. In June 2018, an official request was sent to the U.S. authorities to determine the costs and timeframe required for the aircraft to be able to carry out nuclear missions.