Dhe European armaments cooperation has taken a step forward. With the agreement of Germany, France and Spain on the next program phase of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) industrial companies from the three countries are now to jointly test and develop the technologies for a flight demonstrator, which will further prepare the later construction of the planned manned fighter jet in series production.
This is the entry into work phase 1B. The demonstrator concept was designed in phase 1A. In phase 2, which is scheduled to start in 2025, it should then be made airworthy by 2027/2028. The Elysée Palace and the Federal Ministry of Defense spoke of an important signal for cross-border cooperation.
Supported by an unmanned drone swarm and data clouds, the aircraft is intended to replace the currently deployed fourth-generation models, the Rafale from the French and the United States, as a sixth-generation fighter jet from 2040 onwards Eurofighter German-Spanish-Italian-British production. The total project volume of FCAS is estimated at up to 100 billion euros.
The development was divided into nine work packages involving companies from all three partner countries, including engine manufacturers such as Safran and MTU. Disputes between the German-French-Spanish aerospace group airbuswhose armaments division has its headquarters in Bavaria, and the French fighter jet manufacturer Dassault Aviation had recently threatened the continuation of the program initiated in 2017.
“A cooperative approach at eye level”
Despite the agreement, important details remain open. The final signing of the contract by the three leading companies Airbus, Dassault and Indra Sistemas from Spain for the start of work phase 1B is only expected in the coming days. Before that, the three partner countries still need the green light, in the case of Germany by the Budget Committee of the Bundestag.
Only then can it be assessed what the division of labor looks like in technologically sensitive fields such as flight control and stealth functions, where Airbus has declared that it does not want to be satisfied with the role of a pure supplier to Dassault without participating in the development. The two companies declined to comment over the weekend.
The fact that the Ministry of Defense emphasized on Friday that “it was confirmed at the highest government level that the project, which is under overall French responsibility, is being pursued as a cooperative approach on an equal footing” can be seen as a concession to the German push for participation in the construction of fighter jets”.
However, some critical points will probably only come up later anyway, when it comes to the actual construction of the aircraft. Again, there could be tough contract negotiations before the further work phases, not least for political reasons after a change of government in Berlin, Paris or Madrid. The budget must be released step by step. In the work phase 1B, 3.6 billion euros are estimated, of which one third is divided between the three partner countries.