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Germany plans to develop new fighter jet to replace Tornado

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany plans to develop a new fighter jet to replace Tornado jets in the long term and it aims to hold initial talks with European partners in 2016 about what features they want in the aircraft, according to a document seen by Reuters on Sunday.

A draft document from the Defence Ministry on ‘military aviation strategy’ said it was still unclear whether the new jet would be manned or unmanned. It said it was also possible that the jet would be designed for both options and then be flown with or without a pilot depending on the type of deployment.

As it would be a European project, it is likely that one or more European companies would be chosen to develop the jet. The Tornado jet, which Germany has been using since 1981 - although it now also has the newer Eurofighter jet - was also made in an international consortium called Panavia.

At the same time, Germany’s armed forces are looking into whether it would be possible to extend usage of the Tornado jets into the mid-2030s, the paper said.

The Tornado jets had been due to be phased out in the mid-2020s.

A spokesman for the Defence Ministry said the document had not yet been agreed with the other ministries so he could not comment on it.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Ruth Pitchford