Lockheed to work with U.S. in bid to sell F-35s to Germany: CEO

Lockheed Martin F-35 flying FBN AP

KONGSBERG, Norway (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp (NYSE:LMT) will work with the U.S. government as it talks to Germany about a replacement for its Tornado fighter jets, its chief executive said on Thursday, adding she believed Lockheed's F-35 would be the "best choice" for Berlin.

Germany is kicking off the process of replacing its 85 Tornado jets, which will go out of service around 2030. The program could be worth billions of euros in coming years.

The German air force last month issued a formal request for information about the F-35, as well as three other jets: the F-15 and F/A-18E/F, both built by Boeing Co (NYSE:BA), and the European Eurofighter Typhoon.

On Wednesday, the chief of staff of the German air force said the country needed a "fifth-generation" replacement for its Tornado fighters that is hard to detect on enemy radars and can strike targets from a great distance.

Lieutenant General Karl Muellner's comments indicated a preference for the F-35, which meets those requirements.

"I saw in the media that there is an interest in the F-35, and we stand ready to support the U.S. government on their interactions with the German government on their assessment of the F-35," Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson told Reuters during a visit to Norway.

"I do think it would be the best choice for them," she added.

She was non-committal when asked how many planes Lockheed could potentially sell to Berlin, saying it was up to Germany.

Lockheed Martin also hopes to increase its sales of the F-35 to South Korea, Hewson said.

"Their initial buy is at 40 (aircraft), but I hope that over time they will look at additional buy," she said.

"We are happy that the F-35 is being considered by a number of countries around the world ... Countries like Belgium, Finland, Canada and others are going to continue to look at the program and make their decision," she added.

Many German allies in Europe, including Norway, the Netherlands, Britain, Italy, Turkey and Denmark have selected the F-35 and some have received initial deliveries. Belgium is expected to make a decision next year.

(Writing by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche and Adrian Croft)