Next F-35 Lightning II customers could be Austria and Spain

MADRID ($1=1.03 Euros) — Austria and Spain may be the next customers of the fifth-generation American flagship – Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter. Britain, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark already operate this fighter. Poland, Greece, Finland, Switzerland, and Germany have already chosen to acquire it. The Czech Republic is the eleventh country in Europe most likely to buy the F-35, having an open dialogue with the US about a possible purchase.

US company Lockheed Martin is on an accelerated timeline to quickly sign a deal with Germany to acquire the F-35 Lightning II, wrote Gareth Jennings in Twitter
Photo credit: Twitter

Austria and Spain are most likely next. Spanish media reports that Spain is further along in deciding how to replace part of its current EF-18 Hornet fleet with the AV-8B Harrier vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. Madrid has already drawn up a plan in two steps, the first of which foresees more than 6 billion euros for the F-35 in the period 2023 – 2028. In the next period, Spain is ready to spend another 4.5 billion euros also on the F-35.

Now Austria is also starting to think about exactly which fighter should replace the 15 Eurofighter Typhoons of the Austrian Air Force. Sweden’s SAAB Gripen was the most frequently mentioned model in the central European country, but recently the F-35 has emerged as an option, too. According to Austrian plans, this should happen by the end of 2030 or at the very beginning of the next decade.

Other alternatives

As already mentioned, the Swedish fighter SAAB Gripen will be the main competitor of the F-35 in the Austrian market. Over the years, the American aircraft managed to defeat its Swedish competitor several times. Although Gripen is technologically behind Lockheed Martin’s aircraft, the Swedish 4++ generation aircraft is also favored by some countries, mainly due to its unit cost and lower maintenance costs.

Sweden improving JAS 39 Gripen C/D's capabilities with a new update
Photo credit: Wikipedia

However, Spain, writes InfoDefensa, has another alternative and it is the French fighter Dassault Rafale. The Spanish fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons could also be replaced by another American fighter – the F/A-18 Super Hornet. But Madrid seems more inclined to acquire the F-35 plus one of the two other fighters, as the Lockheed Martin aircraft is the most suitable option to replace the aging Harriers.

Different budgets

Spain and Austria have different defense budgets. The reason Spain is considered a more likely new operator of the F-35 is the sum prepared for its Air Force over the next five years – 13 billion euros.

Greece received the first six of eighteen Rafale fighters
Photo credit: Dassault Aviation

However, Austria cannot afford that much money for its Air Force. Therefore, the decision will be difficult in Vienna, especially after it became clear that Austria is spending 16 billion euros on its entire defense. In this way, it is shown that the purchasing power of the one and the other is very different.

FCAS problems

As we reported in September this year, the European Future Combat Air System [next-generation fighter] may not appear until 2050. Disagreements among participants drastically change plans for development and production. The FCAS [Future Combat Air System] was supposed to fly sometime between 2035 and 2040.

The disagreements are serious. Germany and France cannot agree on who will play what role. FCAS is delayed because labor cannot be shared between France’s Dassault and Germany’s Airbus. Last but not least of the three countries, Germany is the one that makes difficult decisions, because the votes in the parliament are difficult, slow and “doubtful”.

Next-gen French-German-Spanish fighter may not appear until 2050 - FCAS
Photo credit: ESD

The information comes from a “French secret source” apparently with a high role in the project, InfoDefense says. He claimed, “that the three partner countries are debating who should be responsible for what part, in addition to the delay that occurs when any defense purchase is voted on in the German parliament.”


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