The club of air forces operating the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation fighter continues to expand to more NATO countries.
Hellenic Air Force will receive 20 F-35A
One of the latest countries to have opted for this advanced fighter is Greece, which is already in the final stretch of the acquisition process of 20 aircraft in total. They will be of the F- variant 35A, that is, conventional takeoff and landing (the same version used by the United States Air Force) and the first four deliveries are expected by 2028. The last aircraft of this batch they would be in Greece in 2033. The amount of the 20 planes, not including the weapons and the training of their first pilots, rises to 1,600 million dollars. Greece maintains the option to acquire another 20 fighters of this type. Meanwhile, the Greek Air Force will proceed to modernize its fleet of 83 F-16s.
The Romanian Air Force expects its first F-35s after 2030
Another country that has also shown interest in the F-35 is Romania. The Romanian Air Force had up to now 17 F-16s, to which another 32 F-16s have recently been added bought second-hand from Norway. This will allow the already obsolete Romanian Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 to be withdrawn from service. Romania's interest in the F-35 has been expressed by Major General Teodor Incicaș, head of the General Directorate of Armaments of the Romanian Ministry of National Defense. According to Defense Romania, that country wants to start the procedures for signing the contract this year or next year at the latest, after all legislative steps have been completed, which includes seeking the opinion of the Supreme Council of National Defense and Parliament.
Major General Incicaș has declared: "The acquisition of the F-16 is an intermediate stage until the realization of the fifth generation aircraft, that is, the F-35. The Romanian army has as goal of achieving first operational capability, the first squadron of F-35 aircraft, after 2030."
The Spanish government continues without giving news about the F-35
The plans of Greece and Romania with the F-35 contrast with the absence of news on the matter from the Ministry of Defense of Spain. As you will remember, in August 2021, commanders of the Spanish Navy met with the military chief of the F-35 program in the US, news that only appeared on this website, despite the fact that the photos of the meeting were published by the US Armed Forces on its multimedia portal Dvidshub.net. The Spanish Navy currently operates Harrier II fighters, with the ability to make short take-offs and vertical landings (STOVL), and the only aircraft currently on the market with that capability, and the only replacement possible, it's the F-35B.
A few months later, a source as well informed as Janes Information Services announced that Spain would be considering the purchase of 50 F-35 fighters for the Air Force and the Navy. The news was not officially confirmed. In August 2022, a newspaper affiliated with the government of Pedro Sánchez stated that the Air Force shows his preference for the F-35 over the Eurofighter to replace his 80 EF-18s. However, two months earlier, the government announced that it would buy Eurofighters to replace the EF-18 based in the Canary Islands.
Finally, in October 2022 it became known that the Spanish government contemplated a budget item of 6,250 million euros to replace the Harrier II of the Navy and the EF-18 of the Air Force, but without specifying which plane it is. In the case of the Navy, the mystery is easy to unravel, because as has been pointed out, the Harrier II only has the F-35B as possible substitute. However, five months later it is still not clear whether Spain will buy the F-35.
The effects of the delay in deciding to purchase these fighters
Delays in confirming the purchase of this aircraft may have serious consequences for the operation of the Spanish Armed Forces. In 2020 the Spanish Navy already indicated that it would need the F-35 in 5 or 6 years, due to the end of the operational life of the Harrier II. Three years later, even if the F-35Bs are bought now, they will no longer arrive on time and the Spanish Navy could run out of fighter planes.
Something similar happens with the Air Force. The Eurofighter is not up to the standard of fifth-generation fighters such as the F-35, and equipping all fighter units with this European aircraft, which seems to be the intention of the Pedro Sánchez government, would imply that in the event of an error being detected in those planes, the entire fleet could remain on the ground and Spain would not have operational fighters. It is one of the fears that the Air Force has already expressed on occasion, without the government seeming to have paid attention to these objections.
On the other hand, the FCAS program, developed by France, Germany and Spain, could have its fighters operational by at least 2040, due to its constant delays. However, the useful life of the EF-18 will end in 2025. If the Spanish government decides on the F-35 or the Eurofighter to replace the EF-18, everything indicates that some Air Force fighter units will lose operations as they cannot receive their new aircraft on time.
Photo: U.S. navy. A United States Air Force F-35A at Los Llanos Air Base, in Albacete, Spain, on June 10, 2019, on the occasion of its participation in the Tactical Leadership Program (TLP).
Don't miss the news and content that interest you. Receive the free daily newsletter in your email:
The mail subscription service to Counting Stars will allow you to receive in your mailbox a daily email with the new posts published in this blog. It is a free service. Once you have entered your email in this box and press the "Click to subscribe" black button, you will receive a confirmation email in your mailbox to activate your subscription. If at any time you want to unsubscribe, you only just have to click the link that you will find at the bottom of each newsletter.
Comment on this post: