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F-35 Axis

Germany still considering the F-35?

The Japanese government announced on 27 November that its helicopter destroyers, i.e. the IZOMO and the KAGA would be modified to carry fighter jets, with plans to call them mother ships.

European nations (Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway) and Japan are in the process/have already bought F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, giving them stealth capabilities. Japan is finalising plans to buy 40 F-35B vertical take of and land (VTOL) jets, preparing an order for roughly 100 F-35s overall in a deal that could potentially upend the balance of power in Asia. With European countries around Germany now part of the F-35 club, she is also considering buying it.

The F-35 brings the user capabilities they have never had: stealth, ability to launch from any size aircraft carriers and the ability to carry nuclear weapons (the US did not share its earlier stealth aircraft, the B2-Bomber, F117-NIGHTHAWK and the F-22 RAPTOR), giving users a game-changing combination.

Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey host American B-61 nuclear bombs on their bases, designed to be used by the host nation, on their own aircraft, if they come under attack. The US is spending approx. U$10 billion to upgrade these bombs to extend their life and configure them to fit on the F-35. Italy will soon have the ability to launch stealth nuclear attacks from an aircraft carrier.

The move to buy new generation aircraft comes amid a changing security environment, Chinese naval expansion in the Pacific Ocean in the case of Japan and Russian muscle-flexing for Germany.

But German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has not made an announcement about what fighter aircraft will replace the TORNADO. With only the Eurofighter TYPHOON and a future Airbus/Dassault stealth fighter-prototype in the running as well, Germany is currently being boxed in by her neighbouring nations all buying the F-35…all except Poland.

In a new development, Germany and France welcome Spain as a full partner in their programme to develop a next-generation air combat system, and expect to sign an agreement finalising the move at the Paris Air Show in June 2019.

According to SIPRI, Lockheed Martin remains the world’s largest arms producer, with arms sales of $44.9 billion.

Ms Von der Leyen favours a European solution, but the German Ministry of Defence also reviewed data submitted in April by the US government on the F-35. Several options are being studied, including buying one type of jet to replace the TORNADO, a split buy of two aircraft types and extending the life of the aging jets.

Buying F-35s would allow Germany to keep a mixed fleet of fighters, a requirement in its military strategy, while averting costly modifications to the TYPHOON, then opting for a future aircraft. Stay tuned.

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