Plans for European fighter jet move forward with new deal

Agreement 'strengthens Europe's military capabilities and secures important know-how'

The agreement was reached after months of disagreements. AFP
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France, Germany and Spain have reached a deal to start the next phase of creating a fighter jet in Europe's largest defence project, which has an estimated cost of more than €100 billion ($103.4 billion).

The European fighter jet, known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), is intended to be in service by 2040 but has been plagued by months of disagreement between Airbus and Dassault Aviation.

“The political agreement on FCAS is a great step and — especially in these times — an important sign of the excellent Franco-German-Spanish co-operation,” German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Friday.

“It strengthens Europe's military capabilities and secures important know-how not only for our but also for the European industry.”

Launched by France and Germany in 2017 and since joined by Spain, FCAS aims to fly with integrated drone fleets.

But progress on the new delta-wing stealth aircraft has been slowed by disagreements over how the work is split and the intellectual property for the cutting-edge technologies.

“After intense negotiations, a deal between manufacturers has been reached for the next phase of the [FCAS] programme,” the German defence ministry said.

Airbus also confirmed the deal after talks between industry and governments.

“A number of formal steps now have to be taken in the respective countries in order to allow a swift signature of the contract which we will have to adhere to,” the company said.

In August 2021, the three countries signed an agreement to inject a combined €3.6 billion into the project's initial stage, known as Phase 1B, for building a “flight demonstrator” starting in 2025.

But the contracts were not signed with Airbus and Dassault, which are overseeing the German and French operations, respectively.

The French president's office on Friday also hailed the conclusion of the deal.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is scheduled to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on November 25, a visit that could help improve defence co-operation as Europe rethinks its military strategy amid Russia's war against Ukraine.

Germany worried many in Paris in March this year when it announced a deal to buy F-35 jets from US firm Lockheed Martin. The planes are certified to carry US nuclear warheads kept in Europe as part of the Nato defence alliance.

The rival of FCAS — Britain's future combat fighter jet project Tempest, whose partners are Italy and Sweden — reached its own milestone in July when it announced a pre-prototype would fly “within the next five years”.

Updated: November 18, 2022, 11:35 PM