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Nukes, Invisibility Cloak, Speed: The Most Important F-35 Facts at a Glance – Politics

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Germany has been looking for its super jet for a long time, now the federal government has apparently found it super fast: the traffic light coalition wants to buy 35 machines of the US F-35 stealth aircraft. The aircraft of the American manufacturer Lockheed Martin will serve as successor of the Tornado presented more than 40 years ago. Regardless, all 85 fighter-bombers will reach the end of their useful lives around the year 2025.

The new multi-role combat aircraft will be paid for from the unique €100 billion “special fund” announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD). The F-35 is considered the most modern fighter aircraft in the world, the “digital revolution of the fighter aircraft”, packed with powerful sensors and user interfaces. Images are transmitted to the pilot’s helmet system via external cameras, giving you a 360-degree view.

What can the fighter plane do? An overview of the most important data and facts.

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The F-35 can carry nuclear bombs

One of the most important tasks of the F-35 is political: the “nuclear involvement” of Germany. Allies have access to US nuclear bombs through this NATO deterrent concept. Unlike the F-18, for example, the F-35 is already certified for nuclear weapons, so it can carry nuclear bombs.

Most likely, they are stored in the Eifel. This has never been officially confirmed to be the case, but it is considered an open secret: 20 US military B61 thermonuclear gravity bombs are said to be in Büchel. If they now join the F-35s instead of the Tornados, as has been the case so far, Germany may still have a say in NATO’s nuclear deterrent strategy.

An F-35 flies through the Israeli desertPhoto: Jack Guez/AFP

The F-35 has a stealth mode.

The American jet is technically the latest fashion: due to a special shape and outer skin made of a material that can absorb radar rays, the machine is difficult for enemy radar to detect. Therefore, it can pass through enemy airspace largely undetected. Also, the machine itself has particularly good sensors that detect enemy aircraft.

However, the Bundeswehr will likely rely on another aircraft to disrupt, hold and attack enemy air defense positions: 15 “Eurofighters” will be used in future for electronic air combat. However, the manufacturer Airbus still has to technically equip them in the next few years, which is considered extremely demanding.

The F-35 flies at 1,930 km/h.

The multirole combat aircraft reaches a speed of Mach 1.6. That corresponds to 1930 kilometers per hour. The length is 15.7 meters, the height is 4.4 meters and the wingspan is mostly 10.7 meters with a wing area of ​​42.7 square meters.

The payload of the weapon is from six to eight tons. According to a Lockheed Martin promotional brochure: “The F-35C is armed with 20,000 pounds of internal and external weapons, which is roughly the weight of two male killer whales.”

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Specifically, the F35 has two air-to-air missiles and two guided bombs in its standard armament, sometimes an additional cannon on board as well. With a full tank, it can fly around 2,000 kilometers and has a combat radius of around 1,000 kilometers. Depending on the version, the F-35 can even take off vertically, so it doesn’t need a runway.

The fighter-bomber is controlled like a smartphone or tablet via touch screens in the cockpit. Several “apps” perform analysis for the pilots at the same time. F-35 helmets allow them to see through the aircraft by displaying real-time images from infrared cameras around the aircraft. Lockheed Martin’s prospectus says: “This technology is essentially the same technology as the superhero character “Iron Man” from Marvel Comics.”

A “Eurofighter” in NörvenichPhoto: Sascha Schürmann/ AFP

The cost of an F-35

Lockheed Martin has continued to lower the price of the F-35 over the years. In 2018 it was around 95 million US dollars, in 2020 it was around 80 to 85 million dollars.

F-35 Maintenance

Many European NATO partners have already opted for the F-35, including Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. In this context, the federal government also hopes that “synergy effects” will be possible in the operation.

At the same time, however, jet servicing and maintenance is highly complex, not least because of the sheer amount of technology, and can and often can only be done by US personnel. This is why Berlin is also sending a political signal with its decision in favor of the F-35: European sovereignty is being lost to some extent, but long-term dependence on the US is increasing.

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