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MILITARY

Germany to buy F-35 fighter jets in military spending spree

Germany plans to buy up to 35 US-made F-35 fighter jets and 15 Eurofighter jets, a parliamentary source said Monday, as part of a major push to modernise the armed forces in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock talks to Bundeswehr soldiers of the German KFOR contingent in Kosovo.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock talks to Bundeswehr soldiers of the German KFOR contingent in Kosovo. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin would help replace Germany’s decades-old Tornado fleet, according to media reports confirmed by the source.

Tornados are the only jets capable of carrying US nuclear bombs stationed in Germany that are a key part of NATO deterrence.

Lockheed’s F-35 stealth jets are considered the most modern combat aircraft in the world, and their unique shape and coating make them harder to detect by enemy radar.

Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht called the purchase agreement “a good step forwards” for Germany’s Bundeswehr armed forces.

“There can only be one answer to Putin’s aggression, and that is unity in NATO and credible deterrence,” Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, commander of the German Air Force, told reporters.

Germany’s Tornados are the only Luftwaffe planes certified to carry US nuclear bombs stationed in Germany that are a key part of NATO deterrence.

Lockheed’s fifth-generation F-35 stealth jets are considered the most modern combat aircraft in the world, and their unique shape and coating make them harder to detect by enemy radar.

The additional Eurofighter jets Germany plans to purchase, made by a consortium that includes Airbus, would reportedly be used for other operations, including electronic warfare and escort missions.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last month pledged to invest €100 billion ($112 billion) in the nation’s chronically underfunded Bundeswehr.

The spending boost marks a major reversal for Europe’s top economy, upending its policy of keeping a low military profile in part out of guilt over World War II.

READ ALSO: How Russia’s war in Ukraine has sparked historic change in Germany

After years of criticism that the country wasn’t shouldering enough of the financial burden in the NATO military alliance, Scholz also vowed to spend more than two percent of Germany’s gross domestic product annually on defence, surpassing NATO’s target.

The shift was prompted by the return of war to the European continent following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, shaking Germany’s sense of security and shining a harsh spotlight on the state of its armed forces.

READ ALSO: How prepared is Germany in the event of a military attack?

The F-35 purchase however raises questions about the future of a common European fighter jet being developed with Spain and France.

Known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), the plane is slated to replace French-made Rafale jets and German and Spanish Eurofighter planes by 2040.

Scholz sought to allay fears that the project might become unnecessary late last month, by saying the joint European project was an “absolute priority”.

“It is important to me… that we build the next generation of combat aircraft and tanks in collaboration with European partners,” he said.

But the German Bundeswehr has to replace its Tornado fleet in the short term because it has become “obsolete”, Scholz added.

READ ALSO: OPINION: This is Russia’s war, but we Europeans need to learn fast from our mistakes

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POLITICS

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.

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