France and Germany to launch first contracts on future combat jets

File photo. French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visit the ILA (Innovation and Leadership in Aerospace) airshow in Berlin, Germany, 26 April 2018. [Hayoung Jeon/EPA/EFE]

France and Germany will on Wednesday (6 February) announce a 65 million euros contract financed equally by both countries over two years as the first act of the joint programme to design a next-generation combat jet, a French army source said.

Dassault Aviation and Airbus, which will build the jet that is expected to replace Dassault’s Rafale and Germany’s Eurofighters by 2024, will start work on the concept and architectures of the program, the source said.

The companies are expected to launch demonstrators of aircraft and engine by mid-2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel first announced plans in July 2017 for the new Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which will include a fighter jet and a range of associated weapons, including drones.

France and Germany to develop new European fighter jet

France and Germany unveiled plans yesterday (13 July) to develop a European fighter jet, burying past rivalries as part of a raft of measures to tighten defence and security cooperation.

After nearly two years of preparatory work by the companies involved, Wednesday’s agreements and contract signing will pave the way for the programme to begin in earnest.

Airbus and Dassault have been waiting for initial contracts to be signed to start work on the new project.

France’s Safran and Germany’s MTU Aero Engines are expected to join forces to develop the engine for the new warplane, while French electronics firm Thales and European missile maker MBDA would also participate.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly and German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen will preside over the signing ceremony at a Safran site in northeastern Paris on Wednesday.

Germany removed a key obstacle to progress on the project last week when it bowed to French demands and excluded Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter from a multibillion-euro tender to replace ageing Tornado fighter jets that are fitted to carry US nuclear weapons.

Paris, Germany’s closest European partner, had warned that buying the F-35 in particular would derail plans to develop the new Franco-German fighter by 2040 since it would constitute a potential competitor to that project.

Belgium to buy US F-35 fighters in blow to EU’s defence policy

Belgium said Thursday (25 October) it had chosen to buy US-made F-35 stealth warplanes over the Eurofighter Typhoon, which critics call a blow to the EU’s bid to build its own defences.

France and Germany will add Spain as a full partner in the programme this summer, sources told Reuters in December.

Germany, France to add Spain to European jet fighter programme

Germany and France will welcome Spain as a full partner in their programme to develop a next-generation air combat system, and expect to sign an agreement finalising the move at the Paris Air Show in June, German government sources said on Wednesday (5 December).

Britain, which is due to exit the European Union in March, unveiled its own rival aircraft development programme, dubbed Tempest, at the Farnborough Air Show in July.

Britain unveils fighter jet model to rival Franco-German programme

Britain unveiled a model of a sleek proposed fighter jet named Tempest yesterday (16 July), raising questions about the future of European defence cooperation, given that Germany and France launched their own fighter jet programme a year ago.

European military and industry executives say they believe the two programmes could and should eventually be merged given the need to compete internationally and the many billions of euros needed to develop a new combat aircraft.

The French army source said France and Germany were open to more European partners joining the programme.

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