BERLIN — Germany will purchase F-35 fighter jets built by U.S. firm Lockheed Martin LMT.N to replace its aging Tornado aircraft, according to two government sources, with one of the sources saying Berlin aims to buy up to 35 of the stealth jets.
A German defense source told Reuters in early February that Germany was leaning toward purchasing the F-35 but a final decision had not been taken.
The Tornado is the only German jet capable of carrying U.S. nuclear bombs, stored in Germany, in case of a conflict.
But the air force has been flying the jet since the 1980s, and Berlin is planning to phase it out between 2025 and 2030.
The F-35 buy will be a blow for Boeing BA.N, whose F-18 was favored by former German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to replace the Tornado.
The decision could also upset France. Paris has watched Germany’s deliberations over the F-18 or more advanced F-35, concerned a deal could undermine the development of a joint Franco-German fighter jet that is supposed to be ready in the 2040s.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz two weeks ago backed the ongoing joint program with Paris.
At the time, Scholz also announced that the Eurofighter jet, built by Franco-German Airbus AIR.PA, would be developed further to be capable of electronic warfare, a role the Tornado also fulfills.