Future of NATO Nuclear Agreement in Question? Germany Struggles to Replace Aging Tornado Jets

According to NATO’s nuclear weapons obligations, dating back to the Cold War, German planes are to carry US bombs in the event of an atomic strike. Although the country’s Tornado fighter jets are close to the end of their operational life and already cost millions of dollars to taxpayers, it remains unclear which aircraft will replace them.

A German pilot has revealed to the broadcaster Deutsche Welle that the conditions at Büchel Air Base, where American atomic bombs are said to be stored under a “nuclear sharing agreement” (which has never been confirmed by the government) are “pretty tight”. According to the outlet, in late November only 12 Tornado fighters out of 45 jets were operational, and later this number dropped to “less than a handful”.

The problem of the maintenance and future replacement of the planes, which date back to the early 1980s but still meet NATO’s nuclear weapons obligations, has long been a source of concern. The country’s other aircraft are incapable of fulfilling the task of carrying American nuclear bombs in the event of a crisis. The outlet cites an unnamed lawmaker as saying that each year, the increase in the cost of the jets, which are nearing the end of their operational life, “is brutally high”. According to a Ministry of Defence document that DW obtained, in 2018, the maintenance, procurement, and development of the aircraft cost around $562 million. This figure is expected to grow to $700 million this year.

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