F-35 fighter jets are designed to retire the Bundeswehr's aging Tornados. It is planned that the 35 aircraft will find their home at Büchel Air Base after they have been purchased. US nuclear bombs are said to be stored at the military base.
The Bundeswehr wants to bring all of its future F-35 stealth jets to a Rhineland-Palatinate military airfield near the Moselle. "The Air Force plans to station all 35 F-35 A to be procured at Büchel Air Base after the construction work has progressed/completed," said a spokesman for the Federal Office for Infrastructure, Environmental Protection and Services of the Bundeswehr in Bonn.
The F-35 is considered the most modern combat aircraft in the world and is also purchased for Germany's so-called nuclear participation - a NATO deterrent concept in which allies have access to US nuclear bombs. According to unconfirmed information, the last of these weapons in Germany are in special bunkers in Büchel. The F-35 from the manufacturer Lockheed Martin is to be procured as the successor model to the Tornado fleet introduced a good 40 years ago as part of the German Armed Forces' EUR 100 billion special program.
According to the spokesman for the Federal Office, the planned complete renovation of the runway at the Büchel military airfield near Cochem on the Moselle is expected to be completed in February 2026. "Further construction work will continue until at least 2028, but this will not further restrict flight operations," he added. Total expenditure is estimated at around 170 million euros. The current Tornado fighter planes and employees at the Büchel site would meanwhile be relocated to the Nörvenich military airfield in North Rhine-Westphalia.
To protect against opponents of nuclear weapons, the air force base in Büchel has already received a new 11.5-kilometer-long outer fence, including a post path, according to the spokesman. Its technical monitoring is currently being planned. "The costs of the construction work carried out so far amount to around 18 million euros," said the Federal Office spokesman with a view to the new outer fence. This means that every kilometer of fence costs more than one million euros.
Again and again, demonstrators had previously overcome the old, simpler fence and traded lawsuits for trespassing. Opponents of nuclear weapons, for example from the International Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (ICAN), which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, have again announced a protest week in Büchel for July 5-10, 2022. They declared: "With the Ukraine war, the fear of a nuclear war is growing." From 2023 onwards, "new US nuclear weapons are expected to be stationed in Germany".
According to unconfirmed information, US nuclear bombs are to be dropped in Büchel by fighter jets of the German armed forces in an emergency. With a view to Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, the Bundeswehr said: "In view of the tense security situation on NATO's eastern flank, the requirements for maintaining military security have been increased. Details relating to the troops are therefore not given in case of doubt."