The German Air Force has requested for classified data regarding Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet for evaluation of possible solutions to replace its aging Tornado multi-role combat aircraft.
The application states that the German defense ministry would carry out an in-depth evaluation of market available solutions including the F-35, later this year. The ministry will issue a formal ‘letter of request’ in the coming months, Reuters reported Wednesday.
The letter, sent by the Air Force's planning command and seen by Reuters, makes clear that the German government has not yet authorized a procurement program and is not committed to any particular aircraft to replace its current warplanes.
The request might come as a surprise as Germany in December 2015 had planned to develop a new fighter along with its European partners. A draft document by the Defense Ministry on ‘military aviation strategy’ had stated it was still unclear whether the new jet would be manned or unmanned.
The Future Combat Air System (FCAS)—as the Bundeswehr program is called—would likely be a system of systems that combines manned and unmanned elements.
"The German government asked Airbus to consider alternatives for a Tornado replacement that will be complementary with the Eurofighter,” Alberto Gutierrez, head of the Eurofighter program was quoted as saying by The National Interest in March this year.