German Defense Minister Makes Tornado Replacement Plans Official

Germany’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced toPparliament on April 21 the decision to split the replacement program for the Panavia Tornado combat aircraft into two platforms. The long-rumored purchase plans call for the acquisition of 93 Eurofighter Typhoons and 30 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, plus 15 Boeing EF-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft.

The Eurofighter Typhoon purchase will feature 55 units slated to replace the Tornado, plus 38 additional Typhoons covered under the Quadriga Project meant to phase out older Tranche 1 Eurofighters in the German Air Force fleet with newer models.

The Super Hornets will be used in the nuclear-delivery role currently charged to the Tornado fleet.   The Tornado is declared to NATO as a Dual Capable Aircraft (DCA), meaning it may be tasked with the nuclear-delivery role utilizing the B61 nuclear gravity bomb. The EA-18G Growlers, meanwhile, would provide a replacement for the electronic warfare mission-capable Tornado ECR variants. The German Air Force operates around 28 of these platforms.

Germany wants to begin a phased withdrawal of its Tornado fleet in 2025, around which time the newer fighters would ideally begin to arrive. In order to ensure a capability gap does not emerge, the Tornado fleet would continue to serve with the German Air Force until 2030, by which time the new fighters are to become operational.

Reports indicate frustration from the left side of Germany’s political spectrum over the split-buy decision, including from one of the government coalition partners (the Social Democrats) and from the country’s trade unions, which seek priority of local over foreign-sourced orders.

Because of the political controversy related to the split purchase plans, Kramp-Karrenbauer has been careful about saying the Tornado replacement program is a proposal that will only require parliamentary approval by 2022 or 2023 in order to have an order in place by 2025. Thus the metaphorical can (a decision on the split purchase) is being kicked down the road to the next government.

Super Hornet in transit to Denmark, flying with the Royal Danish Air Force, ground operations. Image – The Boeing Company

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is a senior analyst covering both the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions for Forecast International's International Military Markets group.

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