This week the ever-growing club of NATO countries that have opted for the F-35 fifth-generation fighter has expanded a little more.
The Czech Republic and Romania join the F-35 club
So far, NATO countries that have already received their F-35s or that have acquired them and are waiting to receive them are the US, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Countries Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom. Also, this Monday Romania has confirmed the purchase of 48 F-35 in two phases, to replace its F fighters -16. On Wednesday, the Czech Republic confirmed the acquisition of 24 F-35 to replace to the JAS-39 Gripen fighters that it has rented from Sweden.
For European defense it is good news that more and more NATO countries are equipping themselves with a fifth generation combat aircraft. However, for Spain it is not good news, since the Spanish government has not yet decided on this fighter, even though it has no other option to replace the Harrier IIs operated by its Navy. That bad news is related to the delivery times of the F-35.
The waiting lists to receive the F-35 already extend until 2035
In January, while he was already making plans to purchase his F-35s, The Czech Republic began to consider extending the lease of its Gripen fighters until 2035, as it fears that Lockheed Martin will not be able to deliver its fifth-generation fighters before then. That gives us an idea of current F-35 delivery times, which have already been delayed in some countries, largely due to the delivery forecasts for the Tech Refresh version 3 (TR-3), with lower production than initially announced (97 F-35s in 2023, compared to a previous estimate of between 100 and 120).
The F-35 would not arrive in time to replace the last EF-18M
Thus, although Spain would soon announce the purchase of the F-35, as it is possible that it will do within the framework of the Halcón II program that we already talked about here (which would include F-35B for the Navy and also possibly some F-35 for the Air Force), would join behind Czechs and Romanians on a waiting list whose deliveries could begin in 2035, in case of that there are no further delays.
This waiting list is bad news for the Air Force, because the end of the operational life of the EF-18M fighters is expected in 2030. However, the Air Force will still have its Eurofighter fighters to carry out its missions, although with a reduced fleet, which would leave one fighter wing inoperative (possibly the 15th Wing), or two fighter wings. (12 and 15) at medium performance.
The Navy would be left without combat aircraft for almost a decade
The worst news is for Spanish naval aviation. Let us remember that in 2020 the 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. An F-35 delivery deadline for the year 2035 would have a foreseeable consequence: the Navy would be left without fixed-wing combat aircraft for almost a decade, a great loss of capabilities that is due exclusively , to the indecision of Pedro Sánchez's government when it came to purchasing the only possible substitute that the Harrier II has on the market today.
Main photo: U.S. Navy.
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