Germany approves 10 bln euro F-35 jet deal with U.S.

Germany got the go-ahead to buy F-35 fighter jets produced by U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin as part of military procurement projects worth 13 billion euros ($13.85 billion), Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Wednesday. The German parliament's budget committee approved the spending, including 10 billion euros for the F-35 jets as well as funds for the purchase of encrypted digital radios and assault rifles.

These projects are among the first to tap money from a 100 billion euro ($106 billion) special fund that Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced in a major policy shift days after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

The money is meant to bring the German military's weapons and equipment back up to standard after decades of attrition following the end of the Cold War.

Of the 100-billion-euro fund for the armed forces, Lambrecht said: "This will probably not be enough to close the gaps that emerged over the past years because we neglected procurement."

Germany aims to buy 35 F-35 stealth fighter jets in total, including missiles and other weapons and equipment, with the first eight aircraft to be delivered in 2026.

The U.S. jet will replace the ageing Tornado, the only German jet capable of carrying U.S. nuclear bombs, which are stored in Germany to be used in case of a conflict.

The German air force has been flying the Tornado since the 1980s, and Berlin is planning to phase it out between 2025 and 2030.

Berlin's decision to buy the F-35 jets, which was announced in March but needed final approval by parliament, upset France.

Paris fears the deal could undercut the development of a joint Franco-German fighter jet that is supposed to be ready in the 2040s.

($1 = 0.9389 euros)

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