The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, clearly the most advanced fighter jet on the planet, might be expanding its clientele as more countries are looking to purchase it.
Although a decision is a long way off, Madrid and Prague have set the conditions to take their capabilities to the next level with the addition of Lockheed Martin’s stealth fighter jet. But despite its merits, the F-35 is facing fierce competition from an older platform.
F-35 vs. Eurofighter Typhoon
The Spanish military is looking to upgrade its fleet of about 70 F/A-18 Hornets with newer aircraft. The two contestants are the F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon. The former is a 5th generation stealth fighter with unmatched fusion sensor capabilities, while the latter is a 4th generation highly capable air superiority, multirole aircraft.
Despite the F-35’s technological advantage over the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Lockheed Martin aircraft comes at a high price tag and with a complex history that has repeatedly delayed the program. So, purchasing an older but more reliable fighter aircraft might make more sense for the Spanish Air Force, especially since the Spaniards are already flying the platform.
Made by a consortium of Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo, the Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter.
Currently, there are about 70 Eurofighter Typhoons in the Spanish Air Force. If Madrid opts to commit to the platform and double its fleet, it will make maintenance, training, and operations that much easier and streamlined. However, such a decision would limit the Spanish military’s capabilities since it would be stuck with an older generation platform for decades. The more prudent scenario, thus, would be to invest at least a number of F-35s that would make the Eurofighter Typhoons that much better with their “quarterback” capabilities.
A decision isn’t imminent as the Spanish F/A-18 fleet is expected to remain in service at least until 2030.
F-35: Popular on the Market
But these countries aren’t the only ones interested in the F-35. Finland, a close NATO partner—but not an official member state—is currently having a competition for its new fighter aircraft.
Under the HX Fighter Jet competition, the Finnish Air Force is looking to replace its aging F-18 Hornet fleet. Besides the F-35, the Swedish JAS Gripen, French Rafale, European Eurofighter Typhoon, and American F/A-18 Super Hornet are vying for victory. The Finns want 64 new aircraft.
Greece has also expressed an interest in the F-35 platform. The Hellenic Air Force is looking to replace its aging squadron of F-4 Phantom IIs with a squadron of about 24 F-35As. Although there is nothing concrete yet as the Greeks just bought 24 Rafale F3Rs from France, Athens would like to add a 5th generation capability in its arsenal in the foreseeable future.
Earlier in the year, Switzerland also picked the F-35A over competitors, including the Eurofighter Typhoon, and awarded Lockheed Martin a $6.5 billion contract for 36 aircraft.
In total, the 13 countries operate the F-35 from more than 27 bases around the world. More than 700 F-35s are flying, while the U.S. military alone is planning to purchase about 2,500 aircraft of types.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.