Airbus is offering Germany a version of the Typhoon multi-role fighter aircraft that can perform the suppression of enemy air-defenses, or SEAD, mission.
The SEAD Typhoon would be a new variant of the twin-engine plane and would require extensive modification of the basic Typhoon design.
Germany currently operates a significant portion of the dedicated SEAD fleet in Europe. Forty of the Luftwaffe’s 93 Tornado fighter-bombers are electronic combat/reconnaissance, or ECR, variants. The Italian air force possesses 15 Tornado ECRs.
The German air force plans to replace all 85 Tornados with a new fighter starting in the 2020s. Just two designs are in the running for the multi-billion-dollar acquisition: the Typhoon and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet from American plane-maker Boeing.
Notably, Boeing already builds a SEAD version of the Super Hornet called the EA-18G Growler. The company reportedly is seeking permission from the U.S. State Department to export the Growler to Germany. The State Department in early 2019 cleared the company to offer the EA-18G to Finland.
The German air force will select its new fighter aircraft in early 2020, German minister of defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced in late September 2019.
The plane will replace the Luftwaffe’s Tornados and complement the service’s roughly 140 Typhoons. Berlin recently eliminated the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter from the competition.
Defense News called the move “not altogether surprising.”
Berlin for some time has officially favored an upgraded version of the fourth-generation Eurofighter Typhoon — built by a consortium of Airbus, Leonardo and BAE Systems — as the Tornado replacement. The main argument is to keep European companies involved in building combat aircraft and, perhaps even more importantly, staying clear of disturbing Franco-German momentum in armaments cooperation.