Germany’s Snub of F-35 Unleashes Dramatic Geopolitical Consequences


Germany has snubbed Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighter, knocking the American stealth fighter of out of a tender worth billions of euros, the German Defense Ministry confirmed on Thursday. Germany’s military is seeking to replace its aging Tornado warplanes, for which Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and Airbus’ NATO Eurofighter Typhoon remain contenders.

Should Germany go with the Eurofighter after announcing the F-35 out of the running, which was long rumored to have persistent mechanical and software glitches, this could have huge geopolitical consequences considering current multiplying issues of contention between the US and Germany, not least of which goes to the heart of NATO strategic nuclear readiness.

A final decision will be made pending delivery of detailed information from from Boeing and Airbus about their respective aircraft, which must be able to carry and deliver US nuclear weapons in accord with Germany’s NATO obligations, and which further must be certified by Washington to carry the nukes

This presents a number of potential fault lines that could crack open wide the US-German relationship, and with implications for broader NATO defense, especially related to German Air Force ability to carry American nuclear warheads.

However, it should be noted that Lockheed spokesman Mike Friedman said in an emailed statement published by Defense News that Lockheed has yet to be notified the F-35 has been dropped from consideration:

“We have not been officially notified of a decision on Germany’s future fighter. The F-35 delivers unmatched value as the most capable and lowest life-cycle cost aircraft, while delivering the strongest long-term industrial and economic opportunities compared to any fighter on the market. As the foundation of NATO’s next generation of air power, the F-35 is the most advanced aircraft in the world today, and includes Electronic Attack capabilities well beyond any specialized fourth generation aircraft.”

Notably, the Typhoon has never been certified by Washington to carry American-made nuclear bombs, and should it be the replacement of choice for the phase out of some 90 jets, it puts US-German relations and indeed NATO strategic posture itself between a rock and a hard place.

There’s the other possibility that Germany could split the buy between the Typhoon and the F-18 Super Hornet, which is currently in use by the US Navy — a potential compromise which though more costly in terms of having to maintain dual supply chains — could be a way out of a potential nuclear certification showdown.