The French Senate confirms a new industrial pact for the FCAS combat aircraft program
STUTTGART, Germany – The two companies leading the tri-national Future Combat Air System (FCAS) effort have reached an agreement on the centerpiece of the program: the next-generation combat aircraft.
Airbus and Dassault reached an agreement which removed “the main obstacle” to the launch of the demonstrator part of the fighter aircraft program, the French Senate’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said in a statement on Tuesday. The agreement, described as a “major turning point” by the panel, could be approved by the German Bundestag by the summer.
The deal, first reported on April 2 by La Tribune, comes after months of latent doubt about the ability of FCAS leaders to resolve issues important to the progress of the program, namely, intellectual property rights and work-sharing agreements between French, German and Spanish industries. Dassault Aviation heads the French industrial part of FCAS – also known as SCAF – while Airbus represents German industry and Indra heads the Spanish participation.
Timing is important: Stakeholders were hoping that the contract for the next-generation hunter would be finalized before the German parliament leaves for its summer vacation at the end of June, in order to meet the schedule for the next phase of the program.
Company executives have previously said they will start investing “billions of euros” in the program during this next phase, dubbed 1B, after the results of the ongoing joint concept study were released. The main design elements should be revealed once these negotiations are completed, for example if the fighter plane will have a seat or two, Airbus officials told reporters in late 2020.
Airbus declined to comment on the Senate announcement, citing ongoing negotiations. Dassault Aviation, the industry leader for the next generation combat element, did not respond to a request for comment at the time of posting.
The head of the committee Christian Cambon put forward recent Senate hearings with the CEO of Dassault Éric Trappier and the leaders of Airbus Dirk Hoke and Antoine Bouvier to play the “role of catalyst” in the negotiations of the program.
“On these issues which directly affect the sovereignty and security of future generations, there is a tendency in France to forget the importance of Parliament,” Cambon said in the statement. On such issues, democratic debate and transparency are “indispensable”, he added.
The demonstrator part of the FCAS program should run until 2026 or 2027, with the entire “system of systems” to be deployed around 2040. In addition to the new generation fighter, the program includes several new remote carrier drones, an upcoming one. – Generation weapon system, an all-new jet engine, advanced sensors and stealth technologies, and an air combat cloud network.
Vivienne Machi is a journalist based in Stuttgart, Germany, who contributes to the European coverage of Defense News. She previously reported for National Defense magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and Dayton Daily News. She was named Best Young Defense Journalist at the Defense Media Awards in 2020.