Agreement on the European combat aircraft project: the Élysée welcomes "a big step forward"
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France, Germany and Spain have reached an agreement for the launch of the next phase of development of the future combat aircraft SCAF (Future Air Combat System), the largest European defense project at an estimated cost of more than 100 billion euros, Berlin said on Friday.

“A big step forward” for France. Manufacturers have finally reached an agreement for the expensive and complex European combat aircraft project, after more than a year of tussle between Dassault and Airbus, concordant sources indicated on Friday (November 18th).

“After intense negotiations, an agreement between industrialists was able to be reached for the next phase of the program” of the Future Air Combat System (SCAF), said the German Ministry of Defense in a press release issued in Berlin.

“The political agreement on the FCAS is a big step forward and – especially in the current international context – an important signal of the excellent cooperation between France, Germany and Spain”, reacted the French presidency in a press release, emphasizing that “France assumes the role of leader of the project”.

>> To read also: “Energy, combat aircraft, anti-missile shield: the Franco-German couple in turmoil”

“We can confirm that the discussions between industry and governments on the next phase of FCAS have been successful, which represents a major step forward for this flagship European defense program”, reacted for its part the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. .

“Now a number of formal steps in the respective countries have to be completed in order to allow a quick signing of the contract which we will have to comply with,” he added.

Launched in 2017, the Future Air Combat System (SCAF), which also includes drones, is expected to enter service by 2040.

Airbus-Dassault agreement

At the end of August 2021, the three countries concerned, France, Germany and Spain, had signed an agreement providing for 3.6 billion euros in detailed studies to launch the construction of a flight demonstrator in 2025.

But the contracts had not been signed for lack of agreement on the sharing of tasks between the French manufacturer Dassault Aviation and its main partner, Airbus.

Airbus and Dassault could not agree on the distribution of tasks on pillar 1 – the combat aircraft itself – the last of the nine pillars of the program on which discussions between manufacturers stumbled. But Airbus had expressed Monday its optimism about an agreement before the end of the year with Dassault.

This essential agreement for the continuation of the program comes as French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is expected on November 25 in Germany, where she will meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

This visit will be an opportunity for Paris to put some oil in the cogs of the Franco-German engine which had seized up on energy and defense issues.

The SCAF program is a “system of systems” which revolves around the aircraft with accompanying drones, all connected, via a “combat cloud”, with the other military means engaged in an operation.

The British competitor, Tempest

It is supposed to replace the French Rafale and German and Spanish Eurofighter in 2040. The total cost of the program – some 100 billion euros mentioned – is such that it is not possible to carry it out on a national scale, but on a European scale, underlined its promoters.

But Franco-German cooperation in the field of defense has struggled to materialize on several projects, in addition to the SCAF: the new combat tank program known as MGCS, supposed to enter service around 2035, remains mired in the rivalries between the Franco -German KNDS – comprising German KMW and French Nexter – and German Rheinmetall.

In announcing at the end of February an envelope of 100 billion euros for defence, Olaf Scholz recalled that the SCAF and the MGCS constituted an “absolute priority” and this, despite the recent purchase of American F-35 planes, which will serve mainly in Berlin to transport American nuclear missiles as part of NATO’s deterrence operations.

Other Franco-German defense projects have experienced hiccups or even been de facto abandoned, including the modernization of Tiger helicopters, a missile and an artillery system, at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses the issue of strengthening European defense capabilities.

On the other hand, after there also a big delay in ignition, the Eurodrone program was notified at the beginning of the year to Airbus, its industrial leader.

SCAF competitor, the Tempest program carried by Great Britain – Italy and Sweden are also partners – reached a milestone last July when it was announced that a pre-prototype would fly “within the next five years”. .

With AFP

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