Criticism of risky business: Scholz confirms purchase of F-35 fighter jets

Dissatisfaction is spreading among members of the budget committee because there are likely to be problems with the planned order for the F-35 stealth jets.

Criticism of risky business: Scholz confirms purchase of F-35 fighter jets

Dissatisfaction is spreading among members of the budget committee because there are likely to be problems with the planned order for the F-35 stealth jets. After a denial from the defense department, Chancellor Scholz also emphasized that he wants to stick to the project.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has confirmed the federal government's decision to buy new stealth jets in the USA, which will cost billions. "Germany is sticking to its commitment within the framework of NATO's nuclear sharing agreements, including through the purchase of F-35 fighter jets with dual deployment capabilities," writes the SPD politician in an article for the US medium "Foreign Affairs". . The aircraft are intended to replace the outdated fleet of Tornado fighter jets with which the Air Force has so far contributed to nuclear deterrence.

After reports about new risks in the project, the householders of the traffic light coalition also discussed the project. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, who has come under increasing criticism in recent days, also took part in the meeting at times. "Today we made it clear once again that the F-35 is a project with the highest priority and requires the Minister's full attention. The F-35 is intended to ensure Germany's nuclear participation. This shows that the successor to the Tornado is a key defense policy project ", said the FDP budget politician Karsten Klein after the meeting.

It is about significant investments of more than ten billion euros. "If the timeline is torn, there will be significant follow-up costs for the further use of the tornado. This must be prevented," said Klein. The Ministry of Defense must create all the prerequisites. This applies to the approval as well as to the structural facilities for operating the new machines.

The Department of Defense has contradicted reports of significant new risks. A spokesman in Berlin said that the Budget Committee of the Bundestag had been informed in a 25 million euro bill which aspects of the project were still unclear and how the consequences and the likelihood of problems should be mitigated. "There is no crisis. There is currently no problem with the planning, not even with the infrastructure," said the spokesman. According to the submission to the committee, the project is "clearly on the right track" and "everything is green".

Dissatisfaction with possible risks had been voiced among members of the budget committee. The "Bild am Sonntag" reported at the weekend about a secret submission in which the Ministry of Defense warned of significant risks in the business, which could also affect the conversion of the airfield in Büchel (Rhineland-Palatinate) and the granting of national certification for the aircraft.

For decades, Germany has been involved in NATO's nuclear deterrence with its own fighter jets. They are stationed at the Büchel Air Base in the Rhineland-Palatinate Eifel region in order to deploy US nuclear bombs stored there in an emergency. This is called nuclear sharing. The Tornadoes currently intended for this purpose are now to be replaced by the more modern F-35 stealth jets, one of the Bundeswehr's largest armament projects.

Most recently, there had been increased resentment about the slow start to the procurement of equipment and weapons, which nine months after the start of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine had not gotten off to a good enough start. Lambrecht is criticized for this. Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said when asked how satisfied the federal government was with the minister's work: "The Chancellor is satisfied with the work of all the ministers in this cabinet."

So far, Scholz himself has not publicly indicated any dissatisfaction with Lambrecht. Last week he defended her after the difficulties in procuring ammunition for the Bundeswehr became known. "The defense minister is now very committed to eliminating these abuses of the past decades," he said after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Demands for his resignation - even if they are already coming from his own coalition - are more likely to have the effect on Scholz that he is initially sticking to his minister. He is reluctant to be driven by public or published opinion. Simply firing a cabinet member under pressure would not suit him.

Instead, the chancellor is trying to compensate for deficits in the defense ministry by getting himself and his government headquarters more involved in defense policy - for example on the ammunition problem, about which there was a meeting between officials in the chancellery and the defense industry last week. Things could look different if Interior Minister Nancy Faeser opted for a top SPD candidate in Hesse, giving up her ministerial post and a cabinet reshuffle would be necessary anyway. That would be the chance to clear other construction sites at the same time.