BERLIN — Airbus expects an updated industry solicitation for Germany’s multibillion-dollar Tornado replacement program, for which the company will offer an electronic attack-capable Eurofighter.

Wolfgang Gammel, the head of combat aircraft business development, said he learned about the impending update during conversations with Defence Ministry officials.

A ministerial spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the official line that an announcement about the acquisition program is expected in the first quarter of 2020 and that Berlin is looking to quickly replace its aging Tornado fleet.

The requirement for an electronic attack capability was absent from the original request for information when competitors placed their bids in the spring of 2018, Gammel told reporters Tuesday at the International Fighter Conference, a gathering of senior air force and industry leaders in Berlin.

After Lockheed Martin and its F-35 were eliminated early this year, that left only the Eurofighter and Boeing’s F-18 Growler in the race.

An updated RFI presumably would reopen the competition between the remaining bidders as the acquisition process plays out anew on the question of electronic attack capabilities. Such a move would all but certainly result in a sizable delay, as German officials have been trying to be especially thorough in seeing the program through.

Airbus said introducing so-called escort jammer pods to the Eurofighter fleet, to be carried under the belly or the wings of the aircraft, would require little effort because the proposed integration strategy is meant to piggyback on upgrade efforts already on the books.

Complicating a pick between the Eurofighter and the F-18 is the requirement that Germany must keep a contingent of aircraft capable of carrying U.S. nuclear bombs under NATO’s nuclear doctrine. That seemed to give Boeing’s offering an advantage, German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung claimed in a report last month.

For its part, the F-18 is known for its ability to counter enemy air defenses, an area where Airbus now seeks to lay down its own marker.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News.

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