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Tornado replacement: Luftwaffe to get Eurofighters, Super Hornets and Growlers?


Army.ca Fixture
Fallen Comrade
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1) Germany reportedly moving toward a split buy of Super Hornets, Growlers and Eurofighter Typhoons to replace Tornado jets
The German air force will reportedly buy up to 90 Eurofighters, 30 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growlers to replace the remainder of its Panavia Tornado fighter jet fleet, but the split procurement doesn’t offer an easy answer for Germany’s requirement to field a nuclear-capable jet, a U.K. defense think tank said.

Germany plans to use the Super Hornet, made by U.S. aerospace company Boeing, to fill a NATO requirement to field fighter aircraft capable of dropping the B61 nuclear gravity bomb, according to German business publication Handelsblatt, which first reported the split buy. It will also buy Growlers to replace the Tornados that carry out an electronic attack role.

However, only the legacy F/A-18 Hornet — not the Super Hornet — was ever certified to carry the B61, wrote Justin Bronk, a research fellow with the Royal United Services Institute, a U.K. based thinktank that covers defense issues. That means that the Super Hornet will have to go through the certification process, said Bronk, who called the split buy “the worst of all previously mooted outcomes.”

Boeing spokesman Justin Gibbons said that while the Super Hornet is not yet certified to carry the B61, the company has the U.S. government’s support for future integration.

“The F/A-18 Super Hornet is capable of being certified to meet B61 requirements for Germany under its timeline. Boeing has a proven track record of successfully integrating weapons systems that meet the needs of both U.S. and international customers,” he said. Gibbons declined to comment on the timing of Germany’s deadline for competitive reasons...

2) The Bronk piece at RUSI:

German Decision to Split Tornado Replacement is a Poor One
The only possible nuclear adversary for NATO in Europe is Russia, and it has developed an extremely capable and thoroughly modernised integrated air defence system to protect both its ground force manoeuvre elements and its borders, including the key enclave of Kaliningrad. The modernised B61 Mod 12 is extremely accurate and has a large variable yield range to allow careful matching of nuclear escalation if required, but as a gravity bomb the delivery aircraft would have to get within a handful of nautical miles of the target – an extremely dangerous activity for non-stealth aircraft even against current-generation Russia defences. The German replacement fighter is intended to begin deliveries in the mid-2020s and will arguably need to remain credible against likely threats for decades to come.

The basic F/A-18E/F Super Hornet airframe design which is also shared by the EA-18G Growler is reaching the limits of its development potential. As an aircraft designed for multi-role carrier operations, the Super Hornet is immensely strongly built and aerodynamically optimised for low-speed, high-angle of attack controllability at lower altitudes. This makes it ideal for carrier operations, but at a significant performance and operating cost disadvantage compared to the F-16, its closest land-based comparator. Like the Eurofighter, it cannot be made ‘stealthy’ despite various design features on both to reduce radar cross-section where possible.

The Eurofighter is in a different league in terms of performance, especially at high altitudes and with heavier fuel and weapon loads, having been designed from the outset for air-superiority missions and agility at supersonic speeds. As such, it has significantly greater excess power, lift, a much larger radar aperture and more overall capability growth potential compared to the Super Hornet. While the Super Hornet is also cleared for a greater selection of weapons than the Eurofighter, neither are currently B61 certified. Most importantly, neither Eurofighter nor Super Hornet are a credible delivery system for the B61 against Russian targets due to the vulnerability of both platforms to modern Russian air defences. The addition of 15 EA-18G Growlers to the proposed force would technically allow Germany to provide some electronic attack (jamming) support to a coalition strike package, as well as potentially some limited suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) work with the US Navy’s new AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM). However, with a tiny fleet size, usable aircraft numbers would be very limited. In addition, the Growler/AARGM combination is itself not a reliable answer to the latest long-range Russian surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs) such as the SA-21 (S-400) due to lack of missile standoff range and the vulnerability of the platform to anti-radiation and/or active seeker SAMs...

Given the importance of the DCA role to NATO as a whole, the US would then have little choice but to cooperate with Eurofighter B61 Mod 12 certification to meet the Tornado out-of-service date in the mid-2020s. If the DCA role is considered to require actual operational credibility from Germany, then the only feasible choice is the F-35A. Of all the potential aircraft on offer, the F-35A is the only one which represents an operationally credible B61 Mod 12 delivery solution. It will also be operated by all other European DCA members, offering shared training and maintenance burdens. As the UK and Italy have discovered, even small numbers of F-35s can offer significant advantages to medium-sized air forces operating Eurofighter Typhoon as their backbone fighter fleet, since F-35s can get much closer to potential threats and share situational awareness and targeting information with the rest of the force.

Germany’s apparent move to purchase a split fleet of Eurofighters, Super Hornets and Growlers is the worst possible outcome – it imposes all the additional costs and availability challenges of small additional fleets on top of the main Eurofighter force, without any of the additional operational credibility in the DCA role and whole force enabler benefits of a spit buy which included the F-35.

3) And note this earlier at IISS:

Berlin and the bomb
Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands will all operate the low-observable Lockheed Martin F-35A in the DCA task. Germany, however, as things stand, will use a fourth-generation fighter, having ruled the F-35A out of its competition. However, in order to successfully deliver a free-fall weapon, such an aircraft would need to penetrate enemy air defences that would likely include combat aircraft and a layered belt of advanced surface-to-air missiles; this raises the question of whether a fourth-generation combat aircraft is now the ‘right’ choice for the DCA task. As a low-observable design, the F-35A would offer greater survivability in penetrating defended airspace, but even here there is risk. While the F-35A is stealthy, this only reduces the detection range of threat air-defence systems, and having to near overfly the target increases the chance that the aircraft will be detected by air-defence sensors and engaged.

Stand-off weapons

Aircraft survivability and the likelihood of successful delivery would be improved by allocating even a small number of stand-off weapons to what is currently the NATO DCA role. Arguably, the Alliance could reduce the number of nuclear warheads required at the same time because a stand-off system employed for even part of the task would increase the credibility of deterrence.

An air-launched stand-off weapon is one option, although a submarine-launched cruise missile would be an alternative (and it is likely that the next generation of Germany’s submarines will have both horizontal and vertical launch systems – potentially facilitating such an option). Only one European NATO member has a nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile in its inventory: France fields its ASMPA supersonic cruise missile on the Dassault Rafale multi-role combat aircraft as part of its national deterrent.

France, however, is not a member of the NATO Nuclear Planning Group, and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons would prohibit Paris from providing a nuclear capability to a non-nuclear power, in this case Germany. For NATO’s DCA, the US retains ‘absolute control and custody’ of the free-fall bombs allocated to the task. It is at least conceivable that a similar arrangement could be agreed with regard to a small number of the ASMPA. These would be retained by Paris but declared to NATO as part of the DCA capability, and would be made available to the German Air Force in extreme circumstances. Were treaty concerns or domestic politics to block such an approach then an alternative could be for France to supply a small number of the missiles without the nuclear package. A US warhead could then be integrated and the system treated in the same way as the B61 is now within the NATO DCA construct.

The missile would have to be integrated on whichever aircraft Berlin decides to buy, but this is also true of the B61-12 on the Super Hornet or the Eurofighter. Consideration of any such approach would be divisive in Germany. But French President Emmanuel Macron has already indicated Paris’ interest in widening the discussion on the ‘role played by France’s nuclear deterrence in our [Europe’s] collective security’. In a 7 February speech, Macron stressed: ’Europeans must now take greater responsibility for this European defence, this European pillar within NATO.’  Bolstering the sub-strategic element of NATO’s nuclear deterrent would arguably support this goal and would provide an important Franco-German element in the wider context of bilateral defence cooperation...

Talk about, er, granular anaysis that we do not see in Canada. I would think the Germans hope/expect never to have to use damn nukes and thus all the technical arguments are irrelevant to their politicians (sound familiar?).

If they were able to certify the Tornado to carry the B61, I'm sure they can certify the Super Hornet & Growler.  And, since any nukes dropped from German aircraft would be American bombs, destined for targets chosen by America, in support of American foreign policy, if America wants Germany to continue to have that capability, then perhaps America should be the one paying for it?  (I'm not saying I support that, just food for thought?)

I agree on the 3 micro fleets being a bad approach though.  Talk about a huge amount of technical burden, supporting 3 small fleets of aircraft instead of just buying 120 of one aircraft. 

Personally, I think they should have gone with the latest model of Eurofighter.  As stated, it was designed to be an air superiority fighter with lots of future growth in mind.  It also supports the European aircraft industry at a time when they really should be looking to bolster & solidify their own defense industries (many of which are already quite impressive).

As for the F35A - yes, a solid choice for sure.  But, as stated, many other European countries will be operating the F35 in the same role the Germans would have used it for.  By going with a Gen 4 aircraft, I think they are actually mitigating a lot of the cyber risk that comes from an effective cyber attack against the F35.  (Reference the 'Alphas' story posted in another thread)
CBH99 said:
As for the F35A - yes, a solid choice for sure.  But, as stated, many other European countries will be operating the F35 in the same role the Germans would have used it for.  By going with a Gen 4 aircraft, I think they are actually mitigating a lot of the cyber risk that comes from an effective cyber attack against the F35.  (Reference the 'Alphas' story posted in another thread)

Mitigating a cyber risk by greatly increasing the conventional surface to air or air to air missile threat. If your goal is to drop a nuclear weapon, you probably want to get to the target undetected. That being said, I have no idea if the F-35 is certified or will ever be certified as nuclear weapon capable, I think the US has other airframes to conduct nuclear deterrence so probably not even required.

I concur though, the Eurofighter would probably be the best "bomb truck" if that's what the Luftwaffe is looking for.
If they need some lessons on how to penetrate Russian airspace, they should talk to this guy:

Mathias Rust (born 1 June 1968) is a German aviator known for his illegal landing near Red Square in Moscow on 28 May 1987. An amateur pilot, the teenager flew from Helsinki, Finland, to Moscow, being tracked several times by Soviet air defence and interceptors. The Soviet fighters never received permission to shoot him down, and several times his aeroplane was mistaken for a friendly aircraft. He landed on Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge next to Red Square near the Kremlin in the capital of the Soviet Union.

Rust said he wanted to create an "imaginary bridge" to the East, and he has said that his flight was intended to reduce tension and suspicion between the two Cold War sides. Rust's flight through a supposedly impenetrable air defence system had great effect on the Soviet military and led to the dismissal of many senior officers, including Minister of Defence Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergei Sokolov and the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Air Defence Forces, former World War II fighter ace pilot Chief Marshal Alexander Koldunov. The incident aided Mikhail Gorbachev in the implementation of his reforms, by allowing him to dismiss numerous military officials opposed to his policies. Rust was sentenced to four years in prison (for violation of border crossing and air traffic regulations, and provoking an emergency situation upon his landing). He was officially pardoned by the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Andrei Gromyko, and released after 14 months in prison.

PuckChaser said:
Mitigating a cyber risk by greatly increasing the conventional surface to air or air to air missile threat. If your goal is to drop a nuclear weapon, you probably want to get to the target undetected. That being said, I have no idea if the F-35 is certified or will ever be certified as nuclear weapon capable, I think the US has other airframes to conduct nuclear deterrence so probably not even required.

I concur though, the Eurofighter would probably be the best "bomb truck" if that's what the Luftwaffe is looking for.

I agree with you too - penetrating enemy airspace to drop a nuke is probably best done undetected.

However, with the USAF and several other European countries flying the F-35, there are plenty of aircraft available if that is the task at hand.

I also agree that the Eurofighter would have been the best 'bomb truck' of sorts, because it would reinforce their already existing fleet that already has low serviceability without the unnecessary expense of 3 separate fleets.  It would also add a LOT more air frames available for their primary missions, which is what they need 99.9% of the time
USAF F-35As will be nuclear-capable, as will those of Netherlands, Belgium and Italy:


New F-35 fighter jet suitable for carrying nuclear bombs

The Belgian Defence Department’s decision to purchase 34 F-35A fighter jets to replace the Air Force’s current fleet of F-16s means that our Air Force’s jets will continue to be able to carry American nuclear weapons if needs be.

Of three planes that were in the running to replace the Belgian Air Force’s F-16s, only the F-35 is capable of carrying American nuclear bombs. 

The Netherlands and Italy, where US nuclear weapons are also stationed, have also opted to buy F-35s..

MarkOttawa said:
USAF F-35As will be nuclear-capable, as will those of Netherlands, Belgium and Italy:


Plus on USAF F-35As:

...The contract notification did not disclose the specific nature of the Phase 2.3 work to be undertaken, and Lockheed Martin had not responded to a request for information by the time of publication.

A budget justification and approval (J&A) document released in February 2018, however, shows it to be related to the carriage of the B61-12 nuclear weapon on the F-35A for the US Air Force (USAF) and international customers. The F-35A will carry up to two such weapons in its internal bays...

Looks like Germany going ahead with Super Hornets/Growlers, plus Typhoons, for Luftwaffe to replace Tornados:
Germany Informs US Regarding Purchase of 45 Boeing Fighters

German Defense Minister has Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer reportedly informed Mark Esper, US Secretary of Defense, regarding its plan to acquire 30 F/A-18 Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growlers for Luftwaffe.

The German minister emailed her US counterpart informing him of its decision on Thursday, Der Spiegel magazine reported on April 19.

“While we continue to await an official announcement, we remain committed to working in support of both the German and U.S. governments on this important procurement,” a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing said to Bloomberg via email.

Ursula von der Leyen, Kramp-Karrenbauer’s predecessor had proposed to buy a combination of US fighters and Airbus-built Eurofighter Typhoon jets.

Plans to buy 45 Boeing aircraft and 90 Eurofighter jets replace Luftwaffe’s ageing Tornados were first revealed by German publication Handelsblatt in November 2019.

The fighters are to enter the German Air Force from 2025 and last till 2040 after which the air force combat requirement would be met by the Franco-German Future Combat Air System (FCAS) sixth generation jet.

While the F/A-18 was selected because it can carry nuclear bombs [not US-certified yet], Growlers were chosen for their electronic attack capability, the Handelsblatt report said.

Airbus has been lobbying hard for Germany to buy the Eurofighter. It has even commenced a program to test armaments and systems which would go into the future FCAS. One of which is the Eurofighter Electronic Combat Role (ECR) revealed in November last year.

Initial Eurofighter ECR capability is expected to be available by 2026, followed by further development steps and full integration into the FCAS ecosystems. The Eurofighter ECR offers electronic attack (EA) and suppression/destruction of enemy air defence (SEAD/DEAD).

As an advantage over the US-made Boeing FA-18 ‘Growler’, Airbus says the latest national escort jammer technology will ensure national control over features such as mission data and data analysis
[emphasis added].

MarkOttawa said:
Looks like Germany going ahead with Super Hornets/Growlers, plus Typhoons, for Luftwaffe to replace Tornados:

Friend comments:

And this selection process took how many decades?

MarkOttawa said:
Looks like Germany going ahead with Super Hornets/Growlers, plus Typhoons, for Luftwaffe to replace Tornados:

It'll be interesting to see what they're going to pay for their SH's. That'll be the most accurate number when trying to read the tea leaves on the CAF's fighter replacement bidding.
More on Luftwaffe's Tornado split replacement:

Germany picks Super Hornet and more Eurofighters for Tornado replacement

Germany is to pursue a split order for the replacement of its Panavia Tornado combat aircraft, selecting both European and US models for the requirement.

Defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has written to the German parliament informing them of the government’s intention, according to the DPA news agency.

Berlin intends to purchase 30 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to carry nuclear payloads, plus 15 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft.

In addition, Kramp-Karrenbauer says it will acquire 93 Eurofighters. While 55 of these will be Tornado replacements, an additional 38 aircraft are likely to be covered by its Quadriga project to replace the Tranche 1 Eurofighters in the Luftwaffe’s fleet [emphasis added].

The decision is likely to attract political criticism, both from the SPD party – part of the coalition government – and from Germany’s trade unions which are opposed to a split buy on industrial grounds.

However, the lack of an electronic-attack Eurofighter variant and the need to carry US nuclear weapons have likely tipped the decision in favour of the Boeing aircraft [which still needs to be nuclear-certified for the first time as US naval aviation no longer has a nuclear role https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/02/nuclear-weapons-at-sea/].


MarkOttawa said:
More on Luftwaffe's Tornado split replacement:


But not a done deal for some while:

Germany won’t be buying US planes to replace aging Tornados before 2022, official says

Germany has not committed to buying 45 American jets to replace some of its Tornado fighter-bombers, the country’s top defense official said this week amid accusations that she formally indicated to the Pentagon that the multibillion-dollar deal would go ahead.

“No decision has been taken (on which planes will be chosen) and, in any case, the (defense) ministry can’t take that decision — only parliament can,” Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters after a 90-minute, closed-door meeting with a parliamentary defense committee Wednesday.

Kramp-Karrenbauer has been under fire since a report in Der Spiegel newsmagazine Sunday said she sent Defense Secretary Mark Esper an email last week announcing that Germany planned to buy 30 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growlers to replace 45 of its Panavia Tornados, which have been in service since the 1970s.

Some in the political opposition have questioned whether the email was a formal declaration of Germany’s intent to purchase the American planes, media reports said.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said the defense ministry only has suggested that Germany purchase the 45 Boeing planes along with 93 Eurofighter Typhoons [emphasis added], made by a consortium of European companies.

“The suggestion that we purchase Eurofighters … and a much smaller number of F-18s is a compromise that will allow us to make new planes available to the Luftwaffe,” the German air force, by 2030 [emphasis added, almost a Canadian timeline!!!], when the Tornado is due to be taken out of service.

The replacement aircraft must “seamlessly” fill the aging Tornado’s dual role, serving as a fighter-bomber in conventional warfare and maintaining the capability to carry U.S. nuclear bombs, as required by NATO, Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

The ministry is in preliminary talks with Airbus and Boeing so that a decision could be possible during the 2022-2023 legislative period [emphasis added], Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

The Super Hornets have been selected to be part of the package because “only U.S. manufacturers are offering” the capacity to carry nuclear weapons, as required under NATO’s nuclear-sharing terms, Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung Tuesday.

The Tornados are currently the only planes in the German air force that are certified by NATO to carry U.S. nuclear bombs.

Although none of the jets in the running to replace the Tornado is a dual-capability aircraft, the U.S. government told the Germans that Boeing’s fighter could be certified more rapidly than the Typhoon to carry the U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bomb, media reports said last month.

The Tornado’s replacement would be a stopgap measure before the planned introduction in the next decade of the Future Combat Air System, a sixth-generation multirole jet made by a consortium of French, Spanish and German companies.

Can't find it now, but wasn't there an EW pod or something in development for the Typhoon?
Start of an excellent and detailed discussion at a post by Finnish blogger Corporal Frisk (pseudonym, knows his stuff):

On German Nukes and Tornadoes

Few fighter procurements go completely without a hitch these days, and the German Tornado-replacement program is no exception. Critics have decried it as the worst of all options, questioned the idea of a small Super Hornet/Growler-fleet, asked why the Eurofighter ECR doesn’t get any love, and whether nuclear strike really should be included at all in the German mission set.

In reality, things are usually more complex that they seem, and outrageously stupid decisions are rarer than a quick look in the tabloids would have you believe. So what’s the method to the German madness?

To begin with, it is first necessary to look at the capabilities about to be replaced. Germany is in fact looking at three different replacement projects, which include a number of different roles.

The first is Project Quadriga, which looks at replacing 38 Tranche 1 Eurofighters. These early Eurofighters lack several of the more modern systems of the later Tranche 2 and 3 versions, systems that crucially allow for the relatively easy upgrading of these. Due to this, most countries have opted against upgrading the Tranche 1’s (Spain being the exception). The logical solution, which has been reported to be in the work for quite some time, is a one-to-one replacement with new-built Eurofighters. These are to be of the top-notch standard currently offered, with E-Scan AESA radar and other niceties. While Germany officially calls them Tranche 3, the Eurofighter consortium refers to them as Tranche 4 to distinguish them from the earlier Tranche 3’s which are of a lesser configuration. The Project Quadriga jets are roughly corresponding to the standard offered to Finland, which also share the Tranche 4 designation.

More controversial is the Tornado replacement program, which is actually made up of two different parts. Besides the Tornado IDS fleet (more on this later), Germany operate the survivors of 35 Tornado ECR. These are specialised electronic warfare aircraft, flying the SEAD/DEAD (or more popularly the ‘Wild Weasel’) mission of taking out enemy air defences and radars. This is an extremely rare capability for any air force to have, besides Germany only Italy (also with a small Tornado ECR fleet), the US Navy, and Australia sport dedicated tactical SEAD jets, both of the latter doing so in the form of the EA-18G Growler (an Israeli dedicated SEAD-variant of the F-16D is rumoured to exist, but especially after the introduction of the F-16I I am unsure what to make of this claim). This is part of the issue – if Germany is to buy a stop-gap SEAD-jet, there is just a single alternative on the market today, namely the Growler. There are other multirole aircraft with the capability to carry out the mission to varying degrees, including jets sporting anti-radiation missiles and advanced EW-systems. However, the only true SEAD-platform able to do the escort jammer mission which Germany specifically spells out, is the Growler. The Eurofighter consortium last year rolled out the Eurofighter ECR concept, which I discussed on the blog earlier [read on]...


One of the first Youtube videos I actually watched from start to finish.  While somewhat bland and lacking cool graphics, I found his presentation to be quite interesting nonetheless.

I don't know much about internal German/EU politics, but he brought up some interesting (to me, anyway) points I didn't know about before
The official announcement is still pending, but an FYI.

Germany "orders" Super Hornet and Growler as Tornado replacement

Following our earlier reports (*) on the new fighter aircraft for the Luftwaffe (GAF, German Air Force), it is now reported that a final decision was made: the Luftwaffe will take the next steps in ordering thirty Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets and fifteen Boeing EA-18G Growlers.

The 45 aircraft, together with an order for new Eurofighter EF2000 Typhoons, will replace the Luftwaffe's ageing fleet of Tornados. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer emailed her US counterpart Mark Esper on 16 April 2020, informing him of her decision. The official announcement is still pending.

According to Der Spiegel (German Media), the action of the Defense Minister may have upset the Social Democrats, the junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition, as the Minister did not inform them before making her decision. Kramp-Karrenbauer's predecessor, Ursula von der Leyen, had offered a compromise to the SPD, in which Germany would buy US fighter aircraft alongside the Airbus SE-manufactured Eurofighter Typhoon.

According to German business publication Handelsblatt, which first reported the split buy, Germany needs the Super Hornet to fill a NATO requirement to field fighter aircraft capable of dropping the B61 nuclear gravity bomb. However, only the legacy Hornet, and not the Super Hornet, was ever certified to carry that type of bomb.

A lot of discussion within the German parliament will surely follow.



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