Germany to add F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to growing arsenal as nation pivots to improve military capabilities in face of Russian pursuit invasion of ukraine.
Monday, Reuters reported that Lockheed Martin and unnamed German officials had confirmed plans to order up to 35 advanced stealth fighters, with the official announcement expected later this week. This purchase would give Germany a 5th generation fleet at least twice the size of Russia’s.
Germany has historically dragged its feet on defense spending, failing to meet its financial obligations to the NATO alliance and often facing negative publicity for its outdated and ineffective military apparatus. However, Russia’s brazen invasion of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin’s aggressive foreign policy have now prompted Germany to reassess its defense investments. Now Germany intends to increase defense spending to 2% of the country’s gross domestic product (NATO requirement). A fund of 113 billion dollars within this budget will be allocated specifically to armament projects.
Germany will exploit its new F-35 fleet replacing its aging fleets of Tornado IDS (Interdiction and Strike) and ECR (Electronic Reconnaissance) aircraft.
The Tornado family of fighters are multi-purpose, variable-sweep fighter aircraft first introduced in 1979. These twin-engine, two-seat fighters are capable of speeds as high as Mach 2.2, with hardpoints for seven guns in total and one 27mm cannon on board. cannon. It is also the only German aircraft qualified to carry US nuclear weapons. Technically speaking, the F-35 is slower and can carry less ammo, but what it lacks in brute force the Joint Strike Fighter makes up for in stealth, sensor fusion, and computing power.
The F-35’s stealth tends to draw the majority of cover, but it’s perhaps its sensor fusion capabilities that are the fighter’s real claim to fame. F-35s can gather information from a wide variety of sensors and sources on the ground, at sea, in space and in the air. Powerful on-board computers then process all this disparate information and merge it into a single interactive data stream presented directly in the pilot’s line of sight, but most importantly, he can also relay this curated fusion of data to other assets in the area, increasing the situational awareness of all near friendly aircraft .
Once Germany takes delivery of its new F-35s, it will join 14 other nations in operating the American-built stealth fighter, including at least seven European nations, many of which are currently changing their defensive stance against the naked aggression of Russia in Ukraine.
While Russia operates its own 5th generation fighter, the Sukhoi Su-57 Felon, the F-35 clearly stands out as the superior. The Su-57, despite its 5th generation designation, has a radar cross section of about 0.5 square meters, about the same as the non-stealth American F/A-18 Super Hornet. The F-35’s radar cross section, on the other hand, would be closer to 0.005 square meters, or about the size of a golf ball. And although the purchase of 35 fighters does not seem like the manufacture of a massive fleet, this purchase will give Germany at least twice more stealth aircraft that Russia operates in total.
In fact, to date Russia’s Su-57 fleet consists of only two serial production aircraft and 12 hand-built prototypes which the nation has chosen to declare “operational” in the interest of publicity deployments but largely ineffective in countries like Syria. Production continues, but with a new round of sanctions now crippling the Russian economy, how long Su-57 will join the Russian fleet remains to be seen. To date, there are no publicly acknowledged plans to bring Russia’s newest stealth fighter, known as the Su-75 CheckmateManufacturing.
The decision to buy American F-35s, however, could put Germany in hot water with France. Germany has expressed interest in purchasing F/A-18 Super Hornets to replace its Tornadoes in the past, ostensibly to allocate budget for the joint development of a new Franco-German fighter. Choosing instead to operate F-35s may indicate Germany’s waning interest in helping foot the bill for this new jet, although so far there has been no official word of any way.
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