German, French defence ministers to discuss joint combat jet

File photo. German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (R) and French Defense Minister Florence Parly walk past aircraft on display in a hangar during a visit to the Airbus military aviation center in Manching, Germany, 17 September 2020. The two ministers are in Manching to be informed among others of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), the next-generation fighter jet program. [Plillip Guelland/EPA/EFE]

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer will next week discuss with her French counterpart Florence Parly the behind-schedule Franco-German combat jet project as well as tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

Other topics at the talks in Paris on Tuesday (20 April) include both countries’ military missions in the Sahel and the situation in the Indo-Pacific region, a defence ministry spokesman in Berlin said on Thursday.

On Monday, Kramp-Karrenbauer will meet NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, he added.

The development of the next-generation combat jet, Europe’s largest defence project, has been plagued by squabbling between Airbus and Dassault as well as tensions between Germany and France.

Costing more than €100 billion, the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) brings together Germany, France and Spain.

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).

Dassault Aviation, Airbus and Indra are involved in the scheme to start replacing France’s Rafale and German and Spanish Eurofighters from 2040.

The next step of the jet’s development is conditional on the German parliament’s approval, and time is running out to find a solution to present a proposal in time for the German parliament’s budget committee to vote upon it before a general election in September.

The defence ministry has to refer the budget proposal to the finance ministry by 19 May, said a source with knowledge of the issue.

The troop build-up along Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders is also on the ministers’ agenda.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to travel to Paris on Friday to discuss the rising tensions with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The two leaders will be joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel by video link, Macron’s office said.

The likelihood of Russia invading Ukraine is “low to medium,” the head of the US armed forces in Europe General Tod Wolters said Thursday.

“My sense is that with the trend that I see right now, that the likelihood of an occurrence will start to wane,” said the head of US European Command, which also commands NATO’s allied forces.

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