Germany will officially purchase 35 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters to bolster the country’s air force.

Berlin said on 14 December that funds for the acquisition have been approved by the budget committee of the country’s federal parliament, the Bundestag.


Source: Lockheed Martin

Germany becomes the 17th country to officially acquire the F-35, with other commitments under negotiation

“It was decided to prepare the parliamentary procurement decision for the F-35A fighter jet as the successor to the [Panavia] Tornado fighter-bomber for the Bundeswehr,” the body says of the acquisition approval.

“The F-35A is to take over the role of nuclear sharing previously assigned to the fighter-bomber Tornado in the [German] air force until its decommissioning,” the German government says.

While Germany does not maintain its own stock of nuclear weapons, as a NATO member it hosts US nuclear weapons and maintains aircraft, such as the F-35, capable of deploying those weapons. 

The aircraft will also fill a ground attack and close air support role in the Bundeswehr, Berlin adds.

Germany first declared its intent to procure the advanced single-engined fighter in March, with defence minister Christine Lambrecht saying “the aircraft offers a unique potential for cooperation with partners in NATO and Europe”.

The 14 December agreement covers 35 of the fifth-generation aircraft. Lockheed will deliver Germany’s first F-35 in 2026, according to the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office (JPO), which manages F-35 deliveries for both the US military and overseas partners.

The Bundeswehr says the first eight German F-35As will remain in the USA to support pilot and maintenance personnel training, with aircraft shipments to its Buchel air base to commence during 2027.

“Congratulations to Germany on procuring the F-35A,” says Lieutenant General Michael Schmidt, F-35 program executive officer. “We look forward to working with them to deliver the F-35 air system to meet their national defence requirements.”

The move makes Germany the 17th country to officially sign on to the F-35 programme, continuing a streak of success for manufacturer Lockheed, which in the past year also received new procurement commitments from Switzerland and Finland.

Greece and the Czech Republic have also declared their intent to acquire the F-35, though deals for those sales have not yet been finalised.

The jet is now operated by armed forces in North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

German air force Tornado ECR

Source: Bundeswehr

The F-35 will ultimately replace the Luftwaffe’s Panavia Tornado fighter-bombers

“The F-35 is the most advanced, survivable, best value fighter giving pilots the critical advantage against any adversary, enabling them to execute their mission and safely return home,” says Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed’s general manager for the F-35 programme.

The company says it expects some 550 of the jets to be operating in 10 European countries by the 2030s. The total includes two US squadrons based at RAF Lakenheath in the UK.

There are more than 875 F-35s currently in service with nine countries around the world, according to Lockheed.

Even as 2022 demonstrated the F-35 programme’s enduring popularity around the world, current customers have moved to design the jet’s eventual successor. Earlier this month, the UK, Italy and Japan formed a trilateral partnership to develop a sixth-generation fighter via their Global Combat Air Programme.

All three countries are current operators of the F-35.

The USA has its own sixth-generation development programme, which the US Air Force calls Next Generation Air Dominance.