Building the German Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7:7)



German officials have reportedly asked their American counterparts about whether it would be possible to turn the Eurofighter Typhoon into a nuclear strike aircraft. The answer to this question could have serious ramifications on Germany’s effort to replace its aging Panavia Tornado combat jets, which are certified to carry U.S. B61 nuclear bombs during a crisis as part of an inter-NATO agreement, and reinforces previous reports that the European fighter jet is the German Air Force’s preferred option.

In April 2018, the German Federal Ministry of Defense sent a formal letter to U.S. officials asking about whether it would be feasible to configure Typhoons for the nuclear mission, how expensive it would be, and how long the process might take, according to Reuters.

The German Air Force’s ability to fly nuclear strikes has become an increasingly important issue even though the country is not a nuclear power itself. During the Cold War, Germany, as well as other NATO allies, agreed to host American nuclear bombs with the understanding that their aircraft could be called upon to employ them if a major conflict with the Soviet Union broke out.

After the Cold War, this arrangement has persisted and the Germans continue to keep an unspecified number of B61 bombs at Büchel Air Base near the borders with Belgium and Luxembourg. The problem is that the only German aircraft that can carry these weapons are the Tornados, which are in desperate need of replacement.


A German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon armed with a conventional bomb during a training exercise.

Availability rates for the Cold War-era swing wing jets have dramatically dropped in recent years. In 2015, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that only 30 of the approximately 85 remaining aircraft were airworthy at any one time.

The aircraft also lack cockpits that will work with night vision goggles, which limits the jet’s ability to perform missions at night. In March 2018, German magazine Der Spiegel also obtained a report calling into question the security of the Tornado’s data links.

“This could in the worst case mean that the demand for an encrypted communication system for the Tornado weapons system can’t be achieved,” the document stated according to the report. “That means the Tornado weapons system may not take part in NATO missions.”

The German Air Force disputed the story, saying that all of the Tornados set aside to support the alliance’s requirements had the equipment necessary to perform their missions. Regardless, the service has made no effort to hide the importance of replacing the jets.


A German Air Force Tornado combat jet.

The Germans will need to certify whatever aircraft replaces the Tornado as a nuclear-capable platform in order to continue performing the mission. In addition to Eurofighter, the Germans are considering an unspecified variant of Boeing’s F-15 Eagle or that company’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and Lockheed Martin’s stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The process to make sure any of those planes could carry the B61 would likely include ensuring they could safely drop the bombs at all, as well as developing appropriate mission systems and software to enable this capability under various different attack parameters.

In addition, engineers would have to find ways to install the necessary systems and linkages so that the pilot can arm the weapon in flight. Each one of the bombs has a so-called “Permissive Action Link,” or PAL, that prevents the warhead from functioning until an individual puts in a specific code. You can read more about these safety features and other components of the bombs in this past feature.


B61 nuclear bombs or training shapes.

The U.S. military has not certified any variants of the Joint Strike Fighter to carry the B61, but Air Force is in the process of doing so with regards to the F-35A. The aircraft types that Boeing is offering are the only ones in the running that have already gone through this process.

But the German Air Force’s top preference is reportedly the Eurofighter. Germany already has nearly 130 of the jets in service and recently began adding a robust air-to-ground capability to some of them.


“A possible purchase of the Eurofighter would ensure the retention of military aircraft expertise in Germany and Europe, and value creation in our own country,” Germany’s Deputy Defense Minister Ralf Brauksiepe told the Green Party’s Tobias Lindner in a letter earlier in 2018, according to Reuters. “The weapons system has already been introduced to the Bundeswehr [the German Armed Forces] and is being successfully used.”

Replacing the Tornados with Eurofighters does make good sense, something we at The War Zone have noted in the past. As I wrote in December 2017:

“Eurofighter, a consortium that includes portions of Airbus Defense in Germany and Spain, BAE Systems in the United Kingdom, and Leonardo in Italy, manage the development and production of the fighter jets. A major sale to the Luftwaffe could be worth billions to the group and help keep the production line running and its employees at work, an important domestic consideration for the Germans. On Dec. 11, 2017, Qatar signed a deal for 24 of its own Eurofighters, making it the ninth country to buy the type.

This alone could mean significantly lower training and maintenance costs, not to mention saving on large infrastructure needs, compared to acquiring an entirely new type of aircraft, and especially one with high secondary cost demands like the F-35. It also could make it easier for the Luftwaffe to quickly absorb the new aircraft into its inventory. Existing Typhoon variants are already compatible with the targeting and reconnaissance pods the Luftwaffe uses on the Tornado, as well as many of its weapons. Saab has already tested the Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missile on one of the fourth generation fighter jets, as well, giving it a relatively long-range standoff attack capability.”

There is a growing concern, however, that the Eurofighter won’t be survivable enough to perform the nuclear mission in the future. One source told Reuters that the United States would consider this factor in its response about whether it would certify the jets to carry the B61s.

The implication is that the fifth generation F-35 could be the only realistic option. But German authorities reportedly forced the German Air Force’s previous head, Lieutenant General Karl Müllner, into retirement over his support for the F-35 option, though it’s not clear whether that was over his preference for the jet itself or his public comments on the matter.

It is important to note that the United States has been working to make sure the forthcoming improved B61-12 bombs will be compatible with existing NATO platforms, including Tornado, since 2015. Eurofighter, as well as Boeing, also both insist that their aircraft would be able to carry out nuclear strikes in any high-threat environment in cooperation with electronic warfare aircraft and other supporting assets. NATO members regularly train to do just this as part of what is known as Support of Nuclear Operations With Conventional Air Tactics, or SNOWCAT.

Sandia National Laboratories

An official diagram showing the loadout for a Tornado during tests to determine its suitability to carry the B61-12 bomb.

At the same time, Germany and the rest of the alliance are increasingly worried about Russia’s steadily more aggressive foreign policy. This has included veiled and outright threats against member states and non-NATO partners in Europe. Earlier in June 2018, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova implied that increased U.S. military presence in Norway was an implicit threat toward her country.

The Kremlin has also deployed advanced air defenses and other weapons systems, including the S-400 surface-to-air missile system and Iskander nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missiles, along NATO’s eastern flanks and within its Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea. The latter position means that Russian weapons already have the range to engage aircraft flying over Germany proper. Lieutenant General Müllner and other supporters of buying the F-35 had argued that this reality made a stealthy fifth-generation aircraft a necessity.

Germany has joined with France to develop a new low-observable combat jet for both countries. The Joint Strike Fighter program and other stealth fighter development efforts elsewhere make it clear that this process will be long and potentially exorbitantly expensive. There’s no guarantee that it will produce a working design any time soon, if at all. For all of its very real issues, the F-35 is in production now.

Lockheed Martin

A US Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.

If the German Air Force does decide to replace the Tornados with more Typhoons, it could take up to a decade to certify the latter type for the nuclear mission, according to Reuters. It’s not clear when that process might begin, but Germany wants to have all of the older Tornado jets out of service by 2030. This means there is a distinct potential for a gap in capability to occur between when the replacement aircraft arrive and when they’re deemed nuclear capable.

Domestic and international politics are almost certain to have an impact on the final decision, too. Germany itself is in the midst of a political crisis that traces back the last federal elections in September 2017. A poor showing for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) part, as well as its allies in the Christian Social Union (CSU), led to six months of deliberations on the future of their bloc.

This was the longest the country had been without a government since the end of World War II. Any further upheaval could impact attempts to increase the country’s defense spending overall and to address systematic readiness issues plaguing the German Armed Forces as a whole.

Perhaps more importantly, German relations with the United States have plummeted amid a largely personal feud between Merkel and President Donald Trump. Richard Grenell, the new U.S. Ambassador to Germany and a Trump appointee, has suggested he could engage with opposition parties looking to unseat the CDU-CSU alliance. In May 2018, Merkel reiterated comments she had made in 2017 that it was increasingly clear Germany could not rely on the United States for protection.

Jesco Denzel/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP Images

Trump, with arms crossed, listens to Merkel, among other world leaders and officials at the G7 summit in Canada in June 2018.

“It’s no longer the case that the United States will simply just protect us,” Merkel said in the 2018 speech, which also lauded French President Emmanuel Macron who was on hand to receive an award. “Rather, Europe needs to take its fate into its own hands. That’s the task for the future.”

This could make the idea of buying any type of American aircraft increasingly politically untenable. It could also potentially raise new questions about whether Germany should be hosting American nuclear weapons in the first place, which is a controversial issue that left-leaning political parties in the country typically oppose on principle.

In the meantime, the Tornados are only getting older and are steadily less capable of performing any missions, nuclear or otherwise. As such, Germany and the United States will have to come to some agreement on certifying any future planes soon if the German Air Force intends to continue having a nuclear role at all.

Israel Strikes Back Against Hamas Near Jerusalem (Revelation 11:2)

JERUSALEM — Israeli jets struck 25 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday, the military said.

Militants had earlier fired 30 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli territory from the seaside strip, according to the Israeli military. The Iron Dome anti-missile shield intercepted seven rockets, officials said.

Gaza has been controlled by militant group Hamas for more than a decade, during which it has fought three wars against Israel.

Israeli forces have killed more than 120 Palestinians during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border since March 30.

Israel says it’s the only way to prevent mass breaches of the border that would include militants. But the vast majority of the Palestinian casualties have been unarmed, drawing heavy international criticism of Israel’s open-fire orders. Israel blames Hamas for the bloodshed.

Palestinians say the protests are an outpouring of rage by people demanding the right to return to homes their families fled or were driven from following the founding of Israel 70 years ago.

Around two million people live in Gaza, most of them the stateless descendants of refugees from what is now Israel.

The Ramapo: The Sixth Seal Fault Line (Revelation 6:12)

Image result for ramapo fault lineThe Ramapo fault and other New York City area faults 

 Map depicting the extent of the Ramapo Fault System in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania

The Ramapo Fault, which marks the western boundary of the Newark rift basin, has been argued to be a major seismically active feature of this region, but it is difficult to discern the extent to which the Ramapo fault (or any other specific mapped fault in the area) might be any more of a source of future earthquakes than any other parts of the region. The Ramapo Fault zone spans more than 185 miles (300 kilometers) in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It is a system of faults between the northern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont areas to the east. This fault is perhaps the best known fault zone in the Mid-Atlantic region, and some small earthquakes have been known to occur in its vicinity. Recently, public knowledge about the fault has increased – especially after the 1970s, when the fault’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York was noticed.

There is insufficient evidence to unequivocally demonstrate any strong correlation of earthquakes in the New York City area with specific faults or other geologic structures in this region. The damaging earthquake affecting New York City in 1884 was probably not associated with the Ramapo fault because the strongest shaking from that earthquake occurred on Long Island (quite far from the trace of the Ramapo fault). The relationship between faults and earthquakes in the New York City area is currently understood to be more complex than any simple association of a specific earthquake with a specific mapped fault.

A 2008 study argued that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake might originate from the Ramapo fault zone, which would almost definitely spawn hundreds or even thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. Studying around 400 earthquakes over the past 300 years, the study also argued that there was an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault zone into southwestern Connecticut. As can be seen in the above figure of seismicity, earthquakes are scattered throughout this region, with no particular concentration of activity along the Ramapo fault, or along the hypothesized fault zone extending into southwestern Connecticut.

Just off the northern terminus of the Ramapo fault is the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, built between 1956 and 1960 by Consolidated Edison Company. The plant began operating in 1963, and it has been the subject of a controversy over concerns that an earthquake from the Ramapo fault will affect the power plant. Whether or not the Ramapo fault actually does pose a threat to this nuclear power plant remains an open question.

The Antichrist Will Transcend Sectarianism

Having won the recent parliamentary election, Moqtada al-Sadr and his Sadrist Movement are seeking to reshape the political scene in Iraq: Less corruption, less religion and more civic involvement. A dynamics inspired and described here by his chief of staff, Dhia al-Asadi.

My taxi driver, Mohannad, points to the long scar on his right arm, and the large hollow in his right calf. Like thousands of Iraqis, he bears the traces of the war against the Islamic State (IS). Nearly a year after ISIS was defeated in Mosul, Iraq is determined to move on.

In last May’s parliamentary election – notwithstanding the 55 percent abstention rate – the electorate gave first place to a mixed coalition (Sairoun) led by a religious dignitary, Moqtada al-Sadr, who stands for reforms and anti-corruption.

When he discovers where we are headed, my driver exclaims: “I’m all for Moqtada and the Sadrists!”

Guarded by armed soldiers, the Sadrist headquarters are located in central Baghdad back street in the Arasat district. Dhia al-Asadi wears a fitted business suit. A native of Basra, he joined the movement in 1992.

After getting a degree in linguistics, he wrote secretly to Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, a prominent figure among the opposition to Saddam Hussein.

The young man wanted to know exactly what the ayatollah’s political and intellectual orientations were. All his fellow students belonged to the Baath Party, so he joined the Sadrist movement on the quiet.

After its leader was assassinated in 1999, he spent six months in jail. In 2005, he set up the movement’s first Political Bureau in Basra. In 2012, he headed the Shia coalition, Al-Ahrar, in the parliamentary election and at the same time was made head of the movement’s political bureau.

Today, Dhia al-Asadi is a highly respected spokesperson for its leader, Moqtada al-Sadr. He is seen as the latter’s loyal adviser and is said to be behind the cleric’s political and civic evolution over the past few years.


Quentin Muller

– Why has your leader, Moqtada Al-Sadr become increasingly involved in politics?

Dhia al-Asadi – Moqtada’s involvement in Iraqi politics was a gradual process. In 2003, after the American invasion, he refused to take part in the procedures set up by the occupiers. For him, the American presence was indeed an occupation.

Later, when Iraq had its own government, and because many of his followers had been pushed and were in desperate need of leadership, he felt he had to commit himself to peaceful unarmed resistance and take part in the political process.

2010 was a turning point. We decided to join the Nuri al-Maliki government and since then his commitment has continued to grow. With the end of the occupation, we hoped to bring about anti-corruption reforms and set up a new political system.

Q.M. Wasn’t there a risk that such bold political commitment would disappoint many of your followers?

D.A. – No, because his father’s name is so well-known. All the members of the Sadr family were social activists as well as religious leaders. So when in 2015 he organised street demonstrations against corruption, he saw it as a way to represent his fellow citizens and Iraq as a whole.

This would never have been possible from within the political apparatus, only outside of it, with the people, for a raising of national consciousness. It was necessary to put pressure on the government. At no time was Moqtada al-Sadr worried about his reputation. He felt it was important to demonstrate, to get involved.

Not only does he adhere to the Sadrist school but also to Shia Islam. Let me remind you that one of his forebears was the Imam Husayn who defended the faith at the Battle of Karbala (660 AD). A Shia Imam never sits at home telling his followers what to do. Thus Moqtada took his cue from his predecessors and sought to prove he was a leader who deserved his following.

Q.M. – How did this affect his popularity in Iraq?

D.A.  It grew stronger, and not only among his followers. The younger generation has been drawn in as well. There was a time when his critics claimed that Moqtada al-Sadr’s admirers had already sworn loyalty to his father.

But these young people weren’t even born when his father, Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr was alive. Moreover, our popularity is not confined to the Shia movement but has spread to a few Sunni communities.

In this last election, Sairoun ran some Christian and Kurdish candidates. Which means his popularity is growing, unlike that of other leaders. And this is why liberal and communist politicians, who have always been seen in Iraq as anti-Islamist, have also joined forces with us. Moqtada wants to see Iraq run by its citizens.

Q.M. – That was another big risk. Weren’t you afraid of offending the most pious component of your Shia electorate?

D.A. – Yes, that was a gamble and there were people who thought he would lose the religious base among his supporters, but Moqtada has always wanted to place the nation’s interests first and that is our main objective.

Q.M. – Did you yourself advise him to make that move?

D.A. – There are several of us working with him, but for me it was important. We had to turn towards the civil movement and adopt new ideas.

Ever since I joined him in 1992, I’ve been convinced Iraq’s problems can be solved by a movement like this. I’ve always thought we should give up the confessional rhetoric and adopt a nationalist one. The problem is that the European media saw him as a violent opponent of foreign presence in Iraq and have demonised him. Stereotypes were propagated and the fact that he was one of the country’s few nationalist leaders was completely overlooked.

Q.M. – Why did he distance himself from Iraqi Shia politicians?

D.A. – Moqtada left the Shia coalition because he didn’t trust al-Maliki. And above all he wanted to change our relations with our neighbours. We fought the US intervention in Iraq, but that didn’t mean we had to put up with the presence of Iranians, Turks or other Arabs on our soil. It is positive to have good relations with one’s neighbours, but that doesn’t mean those countries should interfere in our affairs.

Q.M. – Have you carried out surveys among your followers to make sure your new positions won’t cause a split in the Sadrist movement?

D.A. – Our movement involves three different levels. There is Moqtada, the leader, there is an “elite” – though I wouldn’t call us that, rather we are intermediaries, civic advisers, like myself; and then there are the grassroots followers, who trust him implicitly.

There was no need to take a survey or negotiate with them, because whatever he decides, they will go along with it. Sometimes we advisers will get together with him and negotiate, pointing out different possible directions we could take, but the final choice is his. Before making a decision, Moqtar al-Sadr consults with those who are closest to him, in Iraq and abroad.

Q.M. – But still, isn’t it a little odd to have made an alliance with communists and liberals, often viewed in Iraq as “atheists”?

D.A. – In 2015, we took to the streets alongside representatives of the very few other parties involved in the anti-corruption demonstrations, and we realised we had a common goal, a peaceful one: Reforming the political system.

And so Moqtada al-Sadr broached the question: Why not join our efforts and form a single coalition? Some thought such a coalition couldn’t last because of our ideological differences. Sometimes contradictions do arise, but our goal was not to discuss what divides us but rather our common objectives.

Q.M. – You have also advocated for the end of confessional parties…

D.A. – Yes, that’s part of our reform project. We want ministries to be run by technocrats. Today, ministers belong to political parties and therefore parliament cannot take them to court, indict them or oversee their work because they put pressure on the premier and can create dissension within the government itself.

Consequently, the ministers are not working in the interests of the nation and are protected by their respective parties. This is why Moqtar al-Sadr wants to do away with confessional politics.

For this last election he wanted to put together a mixed alliance of people from different religious and social backgrounds around the same national platform.

Supporters celebrate Sadr’s success at the polls in Iraq’s election last month. Iraq’s Supreme Court ruled
on Thursday 21 June in favour of a manual recount. [Anadolu]

In our minds when this alliance sits in parliament it will not legislate in the interests of this or that community and will not appoint community members to reinforce their influence, but will select people qualified to help the country as a whole. And the results of this election are in our favour: Sairoun was elected, despite the massive abstention rate.

Q.M. – Why did the bulk of the Shia community not take part in the election?

D.A. – Many Shias had always thought it was their religious duty to vote for their community. They’d been deceived, because the religious parties had told them that unless they voted for them, the Sunnis would take over the country and bring in another dictator like Saddam Hussein.

And the Sunnis were told the same thing. And then what? In the end, both communities were disappointed by these parties and their leaders who proved incapable of serving the interests of the country instead of their own.

Voting must cease to be a religious duty, and become a national duty instead. That’s why many disappointed people refused to vote for the representatives of their community. Moqtada al-Sadr knew those politicians would not be re-elected because they had failed. The mood in Iraq now favours a change in the political landscape. Unfortunately those politicians have no intention of stepping down or retiring.

Q.M. – Did that mixed coalition bring about a new logic in Iraqi voters’ choices?

D.A. – Yes. In the town of Wasit, in the southern governorate of the same name, a Christian candidate – whose community numbers are fewer than 50 members – was elected with over 5,000 Sadrist votes. Why did our supporters from different religious backgrounds vote for a Christian? Because they understood that his religion had nothing to do with his political capacities and his honesty.

Q.M. – Which social class is most prominent among Sadrist supporters?

D.A. – In general they are people who belong to the middle and lower middle classes. In 2005 they came mostly from the poorest neighborhoods, but today I think people from many different sectors of society voted for Sairoun.

Q.M. – Why has Moqtada al-Sadr always refused to run for office himself?

D.A. – He believes it is a duty not to take part directly in the political jousts. He prefers to remain an observer, watching over the whole system. As a cleric, his duty consists in laying down red lines, in the interests of all Iraqis. He wants to intervene where the people need him, but outside the political arena.

[Click to enlarge]

Q.M. – And perhaps it’s too soon for him…

D.A. – He has often said that a cleric’s place is not in politics. Otherwise – though I am not so sure – when a cleric wants to become involved in politics he should shed his turban and his robe so as to deceive no one.

Q.M. – Do you think he will do that one day?

D.A. – He has all the necessary qualities and all the proper tools, but I don’t think he will.

Q.M. – What is the role he wants to have in Iraq?

D.A. – It is obvious that he wants to play the role of a father or elder brother, caring for all his sons, not only his Sadrist sons, but all Iraqis.

Q.M. – Why does he lay such stress on nationalism, maintaining an even-handed dialogue with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates while leaving Iran to one side?

D.A. Moqtada Al-Sadr is not leaving Iran to one side. We are in contact with Iran, but he believes that country is simply a neighbour, like Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

Our relations with all of them should depend only on what they have to offer to Iraq. We must maintain a relationship of equals with the countries on our borders, and work together with them. But on the other hand, we must never let them interfere with our internal affairs. That is why nationalism is essential. To violate that principle is to lose our independence and our sovereignty. We must be powerful enough to protect the national interest.

Our dialogue with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates is normal enough. We had to overcome a misunderstanding which dates from 2003. Saudi Arabia feared that a Shia Iraq might become an extension of Iran and its revolution… Which is not the case.

They imagined that every Shia Iraqi spoke Persian and used tomans as their currency, which is really amusing. When they realised our Shias are Arabs and belong to the same families as the Saudis, their concerns were quelled. For example, we have tribes from Mosul living in Basra, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Q.M. – His visit to Saudi Arabia in July 2017 was criticised…

D.A. – Of course, that was a period when the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia were escalating.

Q.M. – So your leader’s intention is to restore balance in the dialogue between those two neighbouring countries?

D.A. – Absolutely. We used to be in close touch with Turkey, then we turned to the Arab countries and then to Iran (too much!), but Moqtada al-Sadr wants to find a balance. It’s very hard.

The recent Turkish incursion in the North, in the Qandil mountains, is proof… We sent a very clear message to our Turkish brothers. Moqtada al-Sadr will always resist forcible infiltration. But it’s very hard for Iraq to take a tough, aggressive decision against Turkey because we have many economic dealings with that country.

Q.M. – To get back to the recent election, there is an impending recount. How do you feel about that?

D.A. – I think that for any election involving fraud or violations of the electoral process, the procedures for appeal should be respected.

In our country, they can go to the federal court. But parliament has taken a decision without waiting for the verdict of either the commission or the federal court. This is against the law and quite irresponsible.

Q.M. – Do you think the recount is a consequence of foreign pressure?

D.A. – I believe there was foreign pressure and influence during and after the election. Those who lost (strangely enough) and who represent a third of parliament, got together to demand this recount… How can they be sure there will be no fraud when the votes are recounted?

Q.M. – Are you afraid of that happening?

D.A. – Yes, we have expressed some fears.

Quentin Muller is a French journalist specialising in issues of the Middle East and North Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @MllerQuentin

This article was originally published by our partners at Orient XXI.Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

The Coming German Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

German Typhoon fighter takes off\ Ints Kalnins/ REUTERS

Germany Seeks U.S. Certification for Eurofighter Nuclear Role


21.06.2018 | 04:09

Germany has written to Washington asking for clarification as to whether the Eurofighter Typhoon jet is certified to carry nuclear warheads

Germany is pressing Washington to clarify whether it would let the Eurofighter Typhoon carry nuclear bombs as part of shared Western defenses, an issue that could help decide whether Berlin orders more of the jets, sources familiar with the matter said.

Although not a nuclear power, Germany hosts some U.S. nuclear warheads under NATO’s nuclear-sharing policy and operates a number of Tornado warplanes that can deliver them. New jets will need to be certified by Washington to carry out nuclear missions, a process which can take years.

Germany’s defense ministry sent a letter to the U.S. Defense Department in April asking whether certification of the European jets was possible, how much it would cost, and how long it would take, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Top U.S. Air Force and Pentagon officials are working to respond to the German query, the sources said.

The multi-billion-euro tender to replace Germany’s fleet of 89 Tornados, which are due to retire in the middle of the next decade, pits the Typhoon against several U.S. contenders at a time of strains in transatlantic ties.

Executives with Airbus (AIR.PA), Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) and Boeing (BA.N) are making presentations to the defense ministry this week after submitting reams of information on their respective warplanes in April, with the formal launch of the competition expected later this year, industry sources said.

The German defense ministry declined comment on the issue.

No comment was immediately available from the Pentagon.

Lockheed’s radar-evading F-35 fighter is already slated to have the nuclear capability in the early 2020s, while the Eurofighter would still need certification.

Airbus has said it is confident Eurofighter – a joint project with Britain’s BAE Systems (BAES.L) and Italy’s Leonardo (LDOF.MI) – could be certified by 2025. Sources familiar with the Eurofighter said it was possible to reconfigure the European jet to carry nuclear bombs.

But U.S. government sources say that schedule is ambitious given that the F-35 and other aircraft must be certified first. Washington has suggested it could take 7-10 years to certify the Eurofighter for nuclear missions, well beyond the Tornado’s retirement date, according to one German military source.

While urging Europe to boost defense spending, U.S. officials are worried about being shut out of European defense projects after 25 EU governments signed a pact in December to fund, develop and deploy armed forces together. [nL2N1QH1P6]

U.S. officials will also weigh whether the Eurofighter could survive a mission into enemy territory to drop a nuclear bomb without stealth capability at a time when Russia and other potential future enemies have bolstered their sensors and air defenses, a second source said.

The F-35 is the only aircraft in the running that has such radar-evading capabilities, but Boeing and Eurofighter argue that their aircraft can work in tandem with jamming equipment.

Volker Paltzo, chief executive of Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH, told Reuters this week that he remained confident that Eurofighter could take over the roles of the Tornado, and the company had a strategy to deal with a length certification process.

He said the Tornado had been successfully recertified several times after major upgrades.