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Germany's Rheinmetall starts building F-35 fuselage plant

August 1, 2023

German arms producer Rheinmetall is to begin manufacturing parts for F-35 stealth aircraft from 2025 in a new plant. The factory is the first such investment by a German weapons manufacturer since Russia invaded Ukraine.

F-35 flying against a blue sky
The F-35 is seen as the most modern combat aircraft in the worldImage: Harald Tittel/dpa/picture alliance

The German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall on Tuesday marked the construction launch of a new factory in the western town of Weeze that will produce fuselage sections for the F-35 stealth combat aircraft.

The premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hendrik Wüst, took part in a ground-breaking ceremony at the construction site, saying that "a highly modern factory is to be built here that will guarantee good jobs for decades."

Rheinmetall is a partner of the US company Lockheed Martin, which makes the F-35 together with Northrop Grumman, another US firm.

 People, the men in suits, with shovels in a line
A ground-breaking ceremony marked the launch of constructionImage: David Young/dpa/picture alliance

Major commission

The factory, which is estimated to cost €200 million ($219 million) and will have an area of some 60,000 square meters (645,835 square feet), is to go into operation in 2025.

Its up to 450 workers will produce the fuselage parts for at least 400 of the aircraft, 35 of which are earmarked for use by Germany's armed forces at a cost of €8.3 billion. Those aircraft are being purchased as part of the €100 billion package agreed by the government last year to upgrade the country's military.

The other planes, whose delivery is scheduled to start in 2026, will likely be purchased by other NATO partners. The remaining components for the aircraft are to be supplied by other manufacturers, meaning that Rheinmetall will receive only a small part of the proceeds.

Some 1,500 other jobs could be created in connection with the factory.

What is the F-35?

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is considered to be the most modern combat aircraft in the world. The German air force is purchasing them to replace its aging fleet of Panavia Tornado multirole jets.

The F-35 is capable of carrying nuclear weapons and forms part of NATO's nuclear sharing concept, which sees alliance member having access to US atomic bombs.

Germany's air force chief, Ingo Gerhartz, said last year that the purchase of F-35s was made necessary by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, now in its 18th month.

"There can be only one answer to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's aggression," said Gerhartz. "Unity in NATO and a credible deterrent. This in particular means there is no alternative but to choose the F-35."

tj/wmr (dpa, AFP)

Rheinmetall starts building F-35 fuselage plant

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