Written by Jonah Brody
Edited by James Edward Colombo
On February 17th, German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall signed a letter of intent (LOI) with American companies Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman regarding Germany’s freshly procured F-35 fighter jets. The LOI stipulates that Rheinmetall will produce the “jet’s centre fuselage and wing skins” and will also be responsible for “developing, producing, and maintaining sensor systems, avionics, and aircraft and training software” (Lockheed Martin, 2023).
German industry has contributed to supporting and maintaining the F-35 program since it began in 2001. This new partnership would establish the second F-35 centre fuselage integrated assembly line in Germany, helping increase the role the European defence industry plays in the F-35 program (Lockheed Martin, 2023). It would also provide a much-needed boost to the German defence industry, whose market share has decreased in recent years (International Trade Administration, 2022).
In December 2022, the German Ministry of Defence approved the purchase of 35 F-35 Lightning II aircraft to replace its ageing Tornado fleet (Bundesministerium der Verteidigung, 2022). Germany expects to receive the first 8 F-35s by 2026. Once received, the Bundeswehr will operate the aircraft as carriers of US nuclear weapons within the NATO Nuclear Sharing Arrangement (AP News, 2022).
The F-35 has solidified itself as one of the most sophisticated fifth-generation fighter jets in existence and is an interoperability-friendly aircraft. According to a report published by the Centre for International Security Studies, the F-35 “uses common mission software, communications links, and sensor suits across all variants of the aircraft for all partner nations” (Harrison & Reid, 2022), eliminating many of the technical obstacles to data sharing.
The American-made F-35 has become increasingly popular in Europe in recent years, with Germany being the most recent European nation to order the aircraft. Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom currently operate the aircraft. Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Poland, and Switzerland have procured the fighter jet and are waiting to receive their initial deliveries (Lockheed Martin, 2022).
AP News. (2022, December 14). German lawmakers OK defense purchases that include F-35 jets. Retrieved 20 February 2023, from: https://apnews.com/article/europe-business-germany-government-and-politics cfc5acf0a415400676fb97408fbcd582#:~:text=Germany%20in%20mid%2DMarch%20announced, approved%20by%20parliament’s%20budget%20committee.
Bundesministerium der Verteidigung. (2022, December 14). Sondervermögen: Bundeswehr kann 35 F-35A für rund 8,3 Milliarden Euro kaufen. Retrieved 20 February 2023, from: https://www.bmvg.de/de/aktuelles/bundeswehr-kann-35-f-35a-fuer-rund-8-3-milliarden-euro-kaufen-5540934
Harrison, T., & Reid, C. (2022, March 4). Battle Networks and the Future Force. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Retrieved 20 February 2023, from: https://www.csis.org/analysis/battle-networks-and-future-force-1
International Trade Administration. (2022, August 4). Germany—Country Commercial Guide (Aerospace/Defense/Security). Retrieved 20 February 2023, from:
Lockheed Martin. (2022, October 20). F-35 Lightning II. Retrieved 20 February 2023, from:
https://www.lockheedmartin.com/f35/global-enterprise.html Lockheed Martin. (2023, February 17). LM and Northrop Grumman Sign LOI with Rheinmetall. Retrieved 20 February 2023, from: https://www.lockheedmartin.com/f35/news-and-features/lockheed-martin-northrop-grumman-sign-loi-rheinmetall.html