Recently it was reported that Germany is heading towards a split purchase of F/A-18 Super Hornets and more Typhoons to replace their Tornado fleet.
In doing so they are showing that they have no desire to further develop Typhoon as a weapons system, going all in on FCAS.
The Future Combat Air System, and its Next-Generation Fighter (NGF) is currently slated to replace German Typhoons and French Rafales around 2040. The European equivalent of Britain’s Tempest program, FCAS aims to develop a high-end, next generation aircraft to serve until around the turn of the century.
But buy putting all their eggs in this basket the Germans have missed something completely. Typhoon must serve another thirty years.
Should Germany Have Just Purchased Typhoons?
If Germany had been thinking about this requirement over a decade ago there is one question; Why not upgrade Typhoon?
Due to cuts in procured numbers Typhoon never reached Tranche 3B. If Germany had not curtailed its Typhoon buy there would be more capable Typhoons in service right now.
These aircraft would have offered similar strike capability to the latest American F-15 Strike Eagle, but German cuts meant we are left with warmed over air superiority fighters in the strike role.
The extra Typhoons that are being speculated about seem likely to be standard Tranche 3 aircraft, without added capabilities.
If Tranche 3B had gone ahead it also seems likely that there would be no need for Germany to purchase the EA-18G Growler. It would seem likely that with two-seat Tranche 1/2 jets being retired they could be utilised as electronic warfare (EW) aircraft along the lines of Growler.
An electronic warfare Typhoon has been long speculated but is yet to come to fruition. It seems likely that had the other partners wanted to develop the capability, essentially a modern Tornado ECR, it would have been developed.
Indeed Typhoon is expected to receive the electronic warfare variant of SPEAR 3. Indeed, as recently as November Eurofighter have been pitching a Typhoon ECR. ECR, or Electronic Combat Role, is the same designation that the EW variant of Tornado operated by Germany and Italy received.
If this aircraft were to indeed come to fruition it would now be unlikely for Germany to pursue a purchase. Therefore it would be up to Italy and Britain to develop the variant, possibly with funding form Middle Eastern customers.
The Nuclear Problem
While not being nuclear powers certain NATO countries have wartime access to US nuclear weapons. Around 150 B61 tactical nuclear weapons are kept by the US in Europe in case of war with Russia when they’d be released to allies.
While the legality of the program has been repeatedly debated it means the NATO countries that host the weapons must have aircraft cleared to carry them.
Therefore, F-35 made a lot of sense for Germany, despite their seemingly pathological objection to the program.
This seems to be the reason the Germans have decided on Super Hornets. One problem, Super Hornet is not cleared to carry nuclear weapon!
Only the original, or Legacy, Hornets have been cleared to carry the weapons and therefore it is hard to understand Germany’s reasoning here. They would still have to fund weapons clearance on the aircraft and considering the state of the Luftwaffe where will the money come from?
If nuclear weapons were really at the centre of this Germany would opt to purchase F-35 or F-15*A Strike Eagles.
This purchase seems to be entirely politically motivated to maintain both European and and Germanic-American defence cooperation by going both ways.
By purchasing a second fleet of aircraft, and a tiny one at that, Germany is complicating its supply chains. If they had gone for an entirely Typhoon fleet, then they would likely be able to afford nuclear integration on Typhoon. Admittedly this may cost more when factoring in a Typhoon ECR however the increased industrial development would be extremely attractive.
Indeed, Eurofighter have previously stated that they could easily integrate Typhoon and B6q to deliver a nuclear capability.
If Germany cared about anything other than politics they’d have gone the same route as Italy and the UK. If the had indeed gone for this mixed F-35/Typhoon fleet they’d have had the same fighter force as two of their most vital allies. Germany therefore seems to only being one thing and that is making life more difficult for themselves!