A new chapter in German-American defence co-operation has arrived with a deal to establish a new fuselage factory for the F-35 multi-role aircraft, the world’s most sophisticated and standardised fighter jet.

Dusseldorf-based defence company, Rheinmetall, alongside American primes Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, will build the “ultramodern factory” at Weeze in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany as a German Bundeswehr project.

The plant is due to produce at least 400 F-35A fuselage sections for the air froces of Germany and its allies; Rheinmetall expects production to commence in 2025.

F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter is a stealthy, supersonic multi-role fighter developed by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and programme partners from the Nato and US allies. The aircraft’s fuselage and canopy have sloping sides, while the seam of the canopy and the weapon bay doors are sawtoothed and the vertical tails are canted at an angle.

Rheinmetall CEO, Armin Papperger, alluded to the transfer of skills and knowledge that the facility encourages, stating: “We’re proud that our longstanding partnership with Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin and our decades long relationship with the Bundeswehr is reuslting in a genuine transfer of know-how to Germany.”

America sets the standards

The announcement of the new factory comes just after Poland purchased a distributed interactive simulation-based systems integration laboratory in a foreign military sales agreement with the US Department of Defense (DoD).

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Poland’s defence strategy recognises the US as a strategic partner amid the Russia-Ukraine war. The US has become an important supplier of advanced military equipment and an influential partner that shares the same interests as Poland.

Similarly, the new German facility marks a stronger relationship with the US as the DoD can more easily maintain and sustain Poland’s similar weapon systems closer to Russian forces. It will also ensure that both countries keep pace with integrating emerging technologies to their aviation systems; especially considering the F-35 has become the standard Nato combat aircraft.

At the same time, the new facilities across central Europe will consolidate the American defence consumer base in Europe, close to the war in Ukraine. This will help to shore up Europe’s war stocks while strengthening America’s own defence industrial base.

“Close to the state capital in Dusseldorf, we’re going to build a factory that sets standards Europe-wide,” Papperger added. This affirms the standardised systems which are coming out of America’ defence industry.