Germany and France Announce Next-Generation Fighter Jet Project
February 7, 2019
Ending 33 years of direct competition between Eurofighter and Rafale, and renewing a lapsed defence industrial alliance between their two countries, the French and German defence ministers in Berlin signed agreements launching three major defence programs.
Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS), agreement commits both countries to bilateral development and production of common manned and unmanned aircraft, binding them together for several decades to come.
The FCAS program, known in France as SCAF (Système de Combat Aérien Futur), is envisioned as a complex system of systems comprising a new-generation fighter aircraft, unmanned combat aircraft, future air-launched missiles, and swarms of small drones, all interconnected with satellites, other aircraft, NATO networks as well as national and allied ground and naval combat systems.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly and German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen spoke at Gennevilliers near Paris at a facility operated by Safran Aircraft Engines, which will produce the jet's new engine in collaboration with Germany's MTU Aero Engines.
Von der Leyen said that France's Dassault Aviation and European manufacturer Airbus have already signed a contract to produce a concept study for a shared air combat system.
The fighter jet is one component of the Next Generation Weapons System (NGWS), with the manned jet operating in conjunction with other new weapons and swarms of drones linked to it by a so-called combat cloud.
The NGWS is itself part of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) project first announced by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in July 2017. The project is slated to include a variety of unmanned aircraft and missiles.
In January, Airbus Defence and Space and Dassault Aviation were awarded a €65 million ($74 million) two-year contract to develop the architecture and manufacturing structure of the new FCAS project. The money will be split 50/50 by the European partners.
By the time it is finished, the new jet will replace the Eurofighter and Rafale aircrafts currently used by the German and French air forces. Although demonstration flights are scheduled for 2025, the plane is not expected to go into use until 2040.
The multi-billion-dollar project was made possible after Germany followed French calls to exclude Lockheed-Martin from bidding to replace its aging Tornado jets with the US manufacturer's F-35 Joint Strike Fighters last week.
The Tornado is outfitted to carry US nuclear warheads. Germany is required to have such planes as part of its obligation to NATO. France had objected to the F-35 bid because Paris considered it to be a direct competitor to the new Franco-German project.