France and Germany aim to take the next step in the development of Europe’s next-generation combat jet in the coming weeks by confirming contracts to build a test version, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday.
“We are moving forward, it’s an extraordinarily complex project,” Macron said after defence and security talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“In the coming weeks we will have settled the final outstanding points and I firmly hope that by spring we will have the administrative and political confirmations needed to meet our schedule and our ambitions,” Macron said.
The Future Combat Air System (FCAS), being built by German, French and Spanish firms, is a key part of Macron’s push for military sovereignty on the Continent and his aim to lessen its reliance on the NATO alliance.
So far governments have only approved funding for prototype and design contracts, a small fraction of the multibillion-euro budget for the 20-year project.
Signing contracts for the next studies would mean a one billion euro ($1.2 billion) commitment to building the demonstrator plane, expected to cost six billion euros alone, a source close to the project told AFP.
Who would have thought it possible that Germany, Spain & France would work together on the same fighter jet? That our major manufacturers would combine their efforts?
The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program is moving forward! Defence Europe is being built.
— France Diplomacy🇫🇷 (@francediplo_EN) June 17, 2019
Both Macron and Merkel want to give the green light before German elections in September and the French presidential contest next year, since it would reduce chances a new government might scrap the project.
But Merkel, speaking in Berlin — the two leaders talked via videolink — nonetheless said there were still “lots of questions to clarify” over the division of works among French and German firms.
Airbus and France’s Dassault Aviation are spearheading the plane’s development, alongside Safran and Thales of France, German engine maker MTU, and the European missile joint venture MBDA.
“We realise the project is led by the French but it should be a project where both countries play equal roles,” she said, also evoking talks with Macron over the sharing of intellectual property between the companies.
The new stealth delta-wing jets, which will replace the current generation of Rafale and Eurofighter jets, are set to be operational in 2040.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk