The US DSCA (Defense Security Cooperation Agency) has approved the sale of 35 fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II multi-purpose tactical supersonic stealth aircraft to Germany. The offer includes AGM-158 JASSM-ER (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range) air missiles with a flat flight path.
Germany decided to acquire 35 American F-35A Lightning II aircraft after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February this year.
In the German Air Force, the F-35A will serve as strike aircraft to carry out long-range conventional or nuclear strikes. They will take over this role in the German air force after the Tornado IDS (Interdiction and Strike) aircraft. For conventional strikes, the German F-35A will mainly carry satellite-guided bombs and cruise missiles; for nuclear strikes, the American B61-12 tactical nuclear bombs as part of the alliance’s Nuclear Sharing program. The B61-12 Pumas are stored at the German Büchel Air Base under The U.S. control.
The planned sale will benefit the United States’ foreign policy and national security by boosting the security of a NATO partner that is a key force for European political and economic stability, said the DSCA justifying the sale of the F-35 to Germany.
The proposed sale will strengthen Germany’s capacity to resist current and future threats by providing an appropriate replacement for Germany’s retired Tornado fleet in support of the alliance’s Nuclear Sharing mission, which is critical to European deterrence. Germany’s military forces will have no trouble adopting the equipment and capabilities. The proposed sale of weaponry and assistance will not alter the region’s core military balance, as per the DSCA website.
DSCA offered Germany 35 F-35As, a package of ammunition and spare parts for 8.4 billion dollars. The offer includes 37 Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engines, i.e. two spares. The cost of one F135 engine is not publicly known, but the U.S. Department of Defense placed an order this month with Pratt & Whitney to produce 178 F135 engines (including 108 engines for the F-35A) for all three versions of the F-35. The contract’s price is 4.4 billion dollars, but it includes transportation, shipping boxes, spare parts, fixtures, tools, tools, diagnostic equipment, etc.
For the F-35, the Luftwaffe can purchase up to 105 medium-range AIM-120C-8 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and 75 short-range AIM-9X Block II+ air-to-air missiles. Furthermore, up to 344 small guided bombs. GBU-53 SDB II can hit standing or moving armoured vehicles at a distance of up to 110 kilometres and 75 Kilometers for a moving target.
The Americans are also offering Germany 162 BLU-109/B bombs to destroy tougher targets such as bunkers or shelters for fighter planes. The bomb weighing 870 kilograms, penetrates up to two meters of reinforced concrete before exploding. Pumas can be equipped with JDAM kits with satellite guidance.
Other offers include 264 GBU-54 bombs, an Mk85 dummy bomb (87 kg) fitted with a JDAM guidance kit, but in this case combining satellite and laser guidance. Spare parts and components (sensors), spare JDAM kits, test equipment, ammunition programming systems, several types of practice ammunition, etc., are part of the ammunition supply.
The JASSM-ER cruise missile, the game changer
The offer of 75 AGM-158B/B2 JASSM-ER cruise missiles is the most significant offer. A JASSM-ER cruise missile is capable of transporting a warhead weighing 450 kilograms over a distance of 900 kilometres. The missile is guided during flight using satellite and inertial navigation, has a two-way datalink (own and foreign aircraft can send target data to the missile), and in the final phase, is guided using an infrared sensor with automatic target recognition.
The destructiveness of the JASSM-ER practically corresponds to the Russian Iskander ballistic missile. The Iskander missile is known to have a range of 500 kilometres (apparently up to 700 kilometres), but the F-35 can, without refuelling in the air, with a pair of JASSM-ERs hit targets 1,900 kilometres away. It includes a 1,000-kilometre combat range of the F-35A plus 900 kilometres of the JASSM-ER range). On the other hand, using Iskander missiles does not affect the weather.
But German Air Force has another option. The arsenal also includes 600 Swedish-German Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missiles – the missile delivers a warhead weighing 480 kilograms to a distance of more than 500 kilometres. KEDP 350 missile is integrated into Eurofighter fighters.
In any case, Germany must hurry with the F-35 purchase so that the first F-35As can land in Germany around 2027. In June, JR McDonald, head of F-35 sales at Lockheed Martin, said that Germany may receive the first F-35 as early as 2026, in time the Luftwaffe begins to phase out the Tornado IDS between 2025 and 2030.