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Germany to Buy 35 Lockheed F-35 Fighter Jets from US Amid Ukraine Crisis

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will buy 35 American F-35 fighter jets to replace its aging Tornado, it said on Monday, announcing the first major defense deal since Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised a 100 billion euro upgrade to the military. in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The move appeared to be part of a tectonic shift in German security policy, including a promise to hit NATO’s 2% defense spending target, after years of accusations that Germany was too lenient with Moscow in compensation for his Nazi past.

“After careful consideration of all available options, I have decided to initiate the purchase of the F-35 aircraft as a replacement for the Tornado in the nuclear trading role,” Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said in a statement.

The Tornado is the only German jet capable of carrying American nuclear bombs, which are stored in Germany, in the event of a conflict. But the German air force has been flying the Tornado since the 1980s, and Berlin plans to phase it out between 2025 and 2030.

As a replacement, the F-35 offers unique opportunities for cooperation with NATO allies and other European partners alike, Lambrecht said, referring to the fact that many other nations have ordered Lockheed Martin to build the stealth aircraft.

A German defense source told Reuters in early February that Berlin was leaning towards buying the F-35, but no final decision had been made.

Berlin also wants to buy 15 electronic warfare-equipped Eurofighter jets, a capability Franco-German producer Airbus has yet to develop, according to a confidential document sent to lawmakers to brief them on the government’s plans.

The purchase of the F-35 will be a blow to Boeing, whose F-18 was favored by former German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to replace the Tornado.

The decision could also upset France. Paris oversaw Germany’s deliberations on the F-18 or the more advanced F-35, fearing a deal could undermine development of a joint Franco-German fighter jet that is supposed to be ready in the 2040s.

In an effort to address French concerns, Lambrecht echoed Scholz in emphasizing continued German support for the joint combat program.

($1 = 0.9119 euros)

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Andreas Rinke; Writing by Miranda Murray; Editing by Kirsti Knolle and Mark Heinrich)

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