16 Mar 22. Not content with celebrating yet another amazing contract award for its superb F-35 Joint Strike fighter jet from Germany the Bethesda, Maryland based company delivered its 500th C-130J Super Hercules airlifter.
Announced in Berlin on Monday, the decision by Germany to acquire 35 x F-35A jets reverses what had been a widely anticipated plan that had envisaged procuring the F-18 Super Hornet and EA-18 Growler fighter to replace Germany’s fleet of Panavia Tornado aircraft.
Germany’s decision to procure Lockheed Martin F-35A stealth fighters is a huge success for Lockheed Martin and it underlines German Government and military thinking that with so many other NATO allied countries having also acquired F-35 capability, multiple operational advantages of acquiring F-35A aircraft could not be ignored.
Following the already announced order for 38 x Tranche 4 Eurofighter aircraft and that will have electronic warfare capability combined with 35 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter stealth jets completes Germany’s fast jet aircraft replacement programme and the speed of the decision making process further underlines the renewed focus on defence and security from the new Berlin administration but also a significant shift in strategic thinking following a trend of other NATO governments.
As the first significant defence procurement announcement made by the new German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz this is certainly a very large and important one. Responding to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and having been very quick to announce that Germany would inject another EUR 100 billion into defence spending and raising the level of spend to 2% of GDP, the German Chancellor is, through his prioritisation of defence, taking a very different approach to that of his predecessor Angela Merkel.
Germany’s F-35 aircraft fleet will, just as in the UK and Italy, operate alongside Eurofighter Typhoon fighters with the two aircraft types already proven to complement each other’s capabilities.
The decision is also superb news for the European aerospace and defence industry, including many companies in the UK that will benefit from new work involving both F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon fighter programmes and in the long-term maintenance and support operations.
Germany’s decision to acquire F-35 and Eurofighter jets suggests that a very much closer link is being established between combat air procurement decisions in Europe and real-world operational capability requirements such as interoperability and interchangeability, both of which will be critical to the success of future combat operations.
In announcement the F-35 purchase on Monday one notes that Ingo Gerhartz, Germany’s air force commander, said that it was clear there could only be “one answer” to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. “Unity in NATO and a credible deterrent. This in particular means there is no alternative but to choose the F-35,” he said, adding that it was the “most modern fighter in the world”.
The primary role for Germany’s F-35s aircraft will be the critical dual-capable aircraft deterrence mission currently performed by the Luftwaffe fleet of Panavia Tornado military jets. German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said that “With the F-35, the task of nuclear sharing will be guaranteed in the future” adding that “the F-35 offers unique potential for cooperation with NATO allies” particularly given that given that eight European NATO countries have now opted for the type, including five of Germany’s nine neighbours.
That last point is very interesting because Germany’s procurement of the Lockheed Martin built F-35 means the aircraft type has won each and every fighter contest that it has participated, including the most recent other successes in Finland and Switzerland.
F-35 is also involved in Canada’s future fighter programme competition and where a long-awaited decision between selection of the F-35 or Saab Gripen E is expected very soon. In Continental Europe and where Bulgaria and Slovakia have recently selected latest-generation Lockheed Martin F-16 fast jets to replace ageing Russian front-line fighters, the Czech Republic, Greece and Spain are as far as I am aware also considering future fighter aircraft needs.
Having taken delivery or around half the F-35B aircraft previously ordered, the UK has now confirmed a total of 48 F-35 orders from an intended plan envisaging 138 F-35’s. When delivered that would mean that assuming there were no further losses, the UK would have 107 Typhoon Tranche 2 and 3 military fast jets and 48 F-35B. Even before the realisation and understanding that Ukraine has changed everything, the UK clearly has a lack of military fast jet capability and capacity.
At what point the UK Government will redress the current situation is unknown but with so many countries now acquiring F-35, if the UK Government is genuine in its intention to increase the number of F-35 jets in service with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force it is , by constantly dithering and delaying a decision to order more jets, clearly in danger of being placed and the end of F-35 queue unless it steps up to the plate very quickly.
Success and More Success of the Lockheed Martin C-130J
C-130 Hercules aircraft family history has again been made with confirmation that Lockheed Martin had recently delivered its 500th C-130J Super Hercules airlifter.
This ‘Super Hercules’ as the aircraft is known (Lockheed Martin aircraft #5934) is a C-130J-30 aircraft and that has been assigned to the 130th Airlift Wing at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base in Charleston, West Virginia. The 130th Airlift Wing is a long-time C-130 operator currently modernizing its legacy Hercules aircraft with C-130Js.
For the record, although the UK Government was the launch customer for the much-upgraded C-130J variant, the US Government operates the largest C-130J Super Hercules fleet in the world. This latest C-130J aircraft delivery represents USG’s continued transition to the C-130J as the common platform across the Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.
France and Germany have also ordered C-130J aircraft over the past couple of years and have already taken delivery of some but sadly, for reasons cost salami slicing and the possibility that, such is the demand for second hand C-130’s, its remaining C-130J fleet aircraft might possibly be sold at a price close to the one that they paid for the aircraft back in the late 1990’s, the UK will soon retire its fleet of C-130J’s. This is another crass decision by the MOD and one that the UK will I am sure live to regret.
The C-130 Hercules family of aircraft has been the airlift choice of 26 operators in 22 nations and the global C-130 fleet has now surpassed more than 2 million flight hours and holds no fewer than 54 world records.
Defined by its versatility, there are 17 different mission configurations of the C-130J that includes transport (military and commercial), humanitarian aid delivery, aerial firefighting, natural disaster relief support, medevac, search and rescue, weather reconnaissance, and aerial refuelling.
I don’t often do technical but as the most advanced C-130 ever produced, the C-130J-30 Super Hercules (which is 15 feet/4.6 m longer than legacy C-130 models) offers these enhancements and advancements compared to legacy models: 30% more passengers and cargo, 50% more CDS bundles, 44% more paratroopers, 30% crew reduction, 14% more fuel efficient Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 Turboprops with Dowty R391 composite propellers), 20% improvement in payload/range capability, Integrated defensive suite and 250 knot ramp/door, Automated maintenance fault reporting and unmatched situational awareness with digital avionics and dual HUD.
What more can I say!
(CHW – London – 16th March 2022)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785