How Luftwaffe plans to revive its ‘aging’ Tornado fleet?

By Wajeeh Qureshi | April 3, 2020

Recently, the German Air Force –Luftwaffe- has been planning to replace its almost obsolete Panavia Tornado fleet with a new combat aircraft. In the past, it has considered the Lockheed Martin F-35A, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon as potential candidates for the role.

However, last year, the F-35A dropped out from its fighter tender; leaving the Air force to decide between the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Super Hornet. According to an article published by the German news outlet ‘Handelsblatt’, Luftwaffe may have finally made a decision: A split purchase of modified SEAD Typhoons and Growlers (Electronic attack jet variant of F/A-18). 

Why Split the Replacement?

Eurofighter Typhoon – RIAT 2013 © Airwolfhound -Creative commons Flickr

The German Air force aims to achieve two primary objectives with its new fighter jets. Firstly, the jets must be able to conduct strike missions as well as being equipped with excellent SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) capabilities. Secondly, -a NATO requirement- the new jet should serve as Germany’s nuclear deterrent (being capable of delivering the B-61 nuclear gravity bomb).

Luftwaffe’s first requirement will be fulfilled by a custom-built variant of the Eurofighter Typhoon having ECR/SEAD capabilities. The agile, fast and high-altitude performer (jointly developed by Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo) will replace both Panavia’s Tornado ECRs as well as older versions of existing Eurofighters in its fleet.

F/A-18F Super Hornet © Lt. Alex Grammar – Creative commons Flickr

Luftwaffe intends to use Boeing’s EA-18G Growlers –a variant of the Super hornet- to deploy US’s B61 nuclear gravity bomb. Ironically, the Growler isn’t certified to deploy tactical nukes. However, it hopes that the integration of the B-61 into the US-made Growler would be quicker and seamless. Boeing shares the same sentiment as Justin Gibbins, a spokesman for the aerospace company, stated:

The F/A-18 Super Hornet is capable of being certified to meet B61 requirements for Germany under its timeline.

The multi-billion-dollar acquisition is a gleaming prospect for the now struggling Boeing; with losses incurred through the 737 max disaster and an economic blow by the coronavirus.

A Tactical Move?

F/A-18F Super Hornet © Tomás Del Coro – Creative commons Flickr

If the Defense Ministry decides to follow through with its plan of splitting the fighter purchase; it could potentially satisfy both of its foremost requirements.

Will Eurofighter’s strike power and Super Hornet’s nuclear delivery ability be a perfect fit for a rejuvenated German fleet?

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