Lockheed Martin has submitted an offer to the German government to replace the country’s Panavia Tornado fleet with F-35 fighters, as the US manufacturer targets further sales in Europe.
Berlin has 90 Tornados in operation and intends to phase them out from 2025.
Speaking at the ILA Berlin air show on 26 April, Lockheed Martin vice-president business development and strategy integration Jack Crisler said that if Germany were to select the Joint Strike Fighter, deliveries could follow with a “typical” lead time of three years.
Eurofighter is also a contender for the Tornado replacement contract. A central argument of the European consortium – owned by Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo – is that a deal with Germany to supply further Typhoons to an existing fleet would help sustain Europe’s military aerosapce sector until a projected, indigenous future fighter enters service between 2035-2040.
But Crisler describes the F-35 as a “complementary” aircraft rather than a competitor to a future European fighter, suggesting that purchasing the Lightning II could give the European aerospace industry “a leg up” to develop its own fifth-generation fighter.
In addition to the German Tornado deal, Lockheed Martin has submitted bids to supply F-35As to Belgium and Finland.
Potential offers to Poland and Switzerland are being evaluated, although the manufacturer has yet to respond to their governments’ requirements.
Lockheed Martin and its partners delivered 66 F-35s in 2017, and intend to hand over 91 units in the current year.