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In Germany, gridlock over nuclear-capable fighter jet

In Germany, gridlock over nuclear-capable fighter jet, DW, 12 Jan 2020 Germany’s Air Force has a special mission: deliver American nukes in the case of a nuclear strike. But its Tornado fleet is rapidly nearing the end of its shelf life. So why has Germany yet to decide on a replacement?n a given week in late November, the number of flightworthy Tornado fighter jets stationed at Büchel Air Base varied widely: Sometimes, twelve out of the 45 planes were operational; soon after, less than a handful.

“That’s pretty tight,” according to one pilot.

He spoke to DW on condition of anonymity. For the air base, tucked away amid the picturesque plateaus of the Eifel region in western Germany, has a special, secret mission: It is here that American nuclear bombs are stored in what is officially termed a “nuclear sharing agreement.”

In the case of a nuclear strike, German Tornado fighter jets and their crews would deliver the American bombs.

American bombs on German soil

Their location is a state secret. The German government has never officially confirmed the existence of the nuclear bombs in Büchel. The precise number of bombs stored in the underground vaults in the air base is thus unclear; estimates range between 10 to 20.

On the record, the Germany government only admits to being part of the sharing agreement, which dates back to the Cold War and NATO’s nuclear deterrence strategy aimed at keeping Soviet influence at bay.

In essence, it provides for member states of the military alliance without nuclear weapons to partake in planning and training for the use of nuclear weapons by NATO and, officials argue, for their views to be taken into account by nuclear-capable countries, including the US. Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy are all part of the sharing agreement.

Upkeep of Tornado fleet skyrocketing

But as Germany’s Tornado fleet is swiftly nearing the end of its shelf life, the cost of maintaining a fleet for the nuclear mission is skyrocketing.

“The increase each year is brutally high,” as one parliamentarian put it.

DW has obtained a copy of an official document from the Ministry of Defense, which puts the expenditure for the Tornado fleet, including maintenance, procurement and development, at €502 million ($562 million) in 2018. This year, the figure is estimated to reach €629 million…………

January 13, 2020 - Posted by | Germany, weapons and war

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