Nukewatch Quarterly Spring 2022
By John LaForge
Ending years of debate, Germany’s minister of defense said March 14 that the country will purchase U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets to replace the Germany’s PA 200 Tornado jet bombers, EurAsian Times reported March 16.
The F-35s can carry the U.S. nuclear weapons that are stationed in Germany under a program called “nuclear sharing.” Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said, “With the F-35 aircraft type, the task of nuclear sharing will be guaranteed in the future. The goal is to replace the Tornado by 2030.”
Earlier reports suggested that Germany will buy 35 of the Lockheed Martin F-35s, at a cost of approximately $80 million each, according to NBC News. Germany could have to pay over $2.8 billion for the 35 warplanes which have been plagued with design, engineering and testing problems.
In a related event, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, the Los Alamos National Lab and the Sandia National Lab announced in December 2021 that the first production model of the new nuclear gravity bomb called B61-12 had been completed, and that full-scale production would begin in May 2022 and run through 2026.
David Wiegandt, a senior manager on the program at Sandia Lab said, “The first production unit is the first War Reserve B61-12 built at Pantex [Texas] that meets all customer requirements….” The customer is the U.S. air force.
“There’s something really special about this program,” Wiegandt said in a Sandia press announcement. “It has really solid team members who believe in how to do sound engineering and really bring the future of safety and security into modern nuclear weapons.”
Germany and four other NATO members plan to replace their current B61s with the new “model 12” bomb. The Eurasian Times reported that, “Germany stores 20 or fewer U.S. B61 nuclear gravity bombs at the Büchel airbase.”
—EurAsian Times, March 16; DOE/Sandia National Lab, Feb. 2, 2022; and NBC News, March 7, 2021