Boeing Recruiting German Super Hornet Industry Team

Credit: U.S. Navy

Boeing has begun taking the first steps toward establishing an industrial team in Germany to provide support for a planned fleet of F/A-18 Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers that would replace the country’s Panavia Tornado fleet. 

The process of issuing requests for information to German companies by the OEM, announced Jan. 12, emerges despite media reports suggesting that the country’s new government may reconsider its Tornado replacement plans and could look again at the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. 

“We’re continuing down the path that we’re expecting the German government to submit a letter of agreement to the U.S. government for foreign military procurement of the Super Hornet and the Growler,” Michael Hostetter, director of global sales at Boeing, told Aerospace DAILY. “At this point, we’re not seeing any change to that.”

Hostetter said that there had been “substantial engagement” between the German and U.S. governments about the Super Hornet/Growler purchase over the last year and Berlin was eager to get a procurement done as quickly as possible, in part because of the ever-increasing cost of keeping the Tornado flying.  

Germany’s previous administration announced the selection of a mixed fleet of 45 F/A-18 Super Hornets and Growlers along with an equal number of Eurofighters in spring 2020 to replace the approximately 90-strong Tornado fleet by 2030. The Hornet was selected over the F-35 in part because France had threatened to boot Germany out of the joint Future Combat Air System partnership if it chose the Lockheed Martin-built platform, even though the latter was the first choice of the German Air Force to replace the Tornado. The Hornet was also chosen over advanced versions of the F-15 Eagle.

In December, a new coalition government was formed and agreed that a decision on the Tornado’s successor would be made early in 2022. 

Boeing says the Hornet work for German industry could be worth as much as $4 billion over the life cycle of the program. Germany would also have the opportunity to participate in the development of the Next Generation Jammer pod for the Growler. 

The OEM says it has issued requests to 10 German companies that could provide support equipment, logistics, maintenance and training support for a German Super Hornet/Growler fleet. Boeing says it will “contribute additional economic opportunity and value to the German economy” as the programs evolve.  

One of the primary missions of the Super Hornet fleet would be NATO’s dual-capable nuclear mission using U.S.-supplied dual-key B61 gravity bombs based at Buchel in the south of Germany. The Super Hornet is currently not certified to carry the B61, as the U.S. Navy stopped carrying nuclear weapons on its carriers in the mid-1990s before the Super Hornet entered service. But the legacy Hornet that the Super Hornet has replaced did carry the weapon, and industry officials have suggested the process of certifying the Super Hornet would be straightforward. 

Introduction of the Growler enables Berlin to meet a NATO obligation to provide an airborne electronic attack capability for the alliance by the end of the decade. 

A Super Hornet contract in Germany would not only bolster the Super Hornet and Growler program, but also be a significant boost for the company’s presence in Germany. Prior to the recent contract for the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, the last major sales for the company to Berlin had been for Joint Direct Attack Munition bomb kits and Harpoon missiles. Prior to this it had been the sale of F-4 Phantoms by McDonnell Douglas in the late 1960s.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.


I thought part of the tactical nuke requirement was supersonic/transonic attack profile on the deck- the F-104, F-111, Phantom, F-16 and Tornado IDS could do this, the SuperHornet cannot, even totally clean.
Its not just certifying the F-18E to carry the B61 (wiring, clearance separation etc). I would think that the nuke delivery mission profile may require a re-evaluation of the airframe fatigue stress spectrum which may be outside the F-18E design envelope.
Why in God's name would the location of stored B61 nuclear gravity bombs based at Buchel in the south of Germany EVER be made public? Those nuclear weapons would obviously be a #1 target at the start of a surprise attack. Could the named location merely be a fabrication that attempts to mislead potential enemies? I hope so. However, fact or fiction, now, the last place I'd ever want to live is Buchel, GE, which has become the center of a nuclear bull's eye! 🤯
Chas Munro, Nuclear basing is not an easy thing to hide considering the dedicated infrastructure that goes with bunkers, alert shelters etc. training and maintenance. In a crisis, aircraft would probably be armed and dispersed.