BERLIN ― Eurofighter officials are downplaying the F-35 fighter′s stealth capability at the Berlin Air Show, positing that the consortium’s non-stealthy Typhoon still beats out the American competition in the race to replace Germany’s Tornado fleet.
“Stealth is only 10 percent of the capability mix,” Eurofighter marketing chief Raffael Klaschke told Defense News on Wednesday. “We’re still better at the other 90 percent,” he argued, referring to the aircraft’s combat capabilities.
While the company could rest easy with the German Defence Ministry’s recent proclamation that the Eurofighter is the preferred path for the upcoming multibillion-dollar Tornado-replacement program, Lockheed Martin’s massive showing at the air show may have some officials nervous.
Eurofighter CEO Volker Paltzo doubled down on the argument that the Typhoon would guarantee continued vibrancy in the European military aircraft market. “I want to underscore that every euro spent on Eurofighter within Europe stays in Europe,” he told reporters.
Executives also stressed that the European aircraft would come free of any “black boxes,” a reference to the expectation that all technological and operational details would be owned by Europeans, which may not be the case with the F-35.
F-35 advocates have touted the fifth-generation aircraft’s stealth and other advanced capabilities for deep-strike and standoff combat, and there are some in Germany, especially in the Air Force, who believe that European technology simply cannot compare.
At the same time, whatever follow-on aircraft Berlin chooses for its 90-strong Tornado fleet is only expected to be a bridge toward a brand-new development, raising the question of whether a costly acquisition of the U.S. planes would be a worthwhile investment.
Klaschke described stealth as a “niche capability,” adding with a nod to the F-35′s competition: “We’re not scared.”
Officials were less willing to discuss the expected nuclear-weapons capability of the Eurofighter, which it would pick up from the Tornado. Paltzo pointed to “confidentiality” in discussing the topic, referring to the Defence Ministry for information.
What is clear, however, is that the Eurofighter will be able to carry forward Germany’s pledge to deploy U.S. atomic arms at the behest of NATO, according to Paltzo.
And while the U.S. Defense Department must certify the aircraft-weapon pairing, the CEO said he does not expect America to influence the fighter decision toward its own industry’s product.
“This is a subject where we would not expect leverage by the U.S. over the Eurofighter,” Paltzo said.
Sebastian Sprenger is Europe editor for Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multinational investments in defense and global security. He previously served as managing editor for Defense News.