Paris The message of DassaultCEO Eric Trappier and Airbus Defense CEO Dirk Hoke do not lack clarity: "We're not losing any more time!" In a joint press release, the two bosses warn that the European fighter plane program of the future (FCAS) is in turmoil advised. "If Europe does not move quickly, it will be impossible to maintain the development and production capacity necessary for a sovereign defense industry," write Hoke and Trappier.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron had agreed to build a European system of fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, satellites and ground stations two years ago. In January 2019, a concept study was agreed, and in June the two governments signed further contracts.
Hoke and Trappier acknowledge all this, but they lack speed: Now the concrete technical orders for the development of a demonstrator and the necessary funds must be provided. "Now it is necessary that FCAS progresses concretely."
The next Franco-German Council of Ministers must open the phase of demonstrators, and the participating nations should commit to a credible financing plan that ensures the "lasting and coherent nature of this European development program," the two industrialists write.
FCAS is expected to be the most expensive and technologically sophisticated European armaments program in the tens of billions of dollars expected. It should be operational in 2040. To make the timetable work, the first demonstrators have to fly in just a few years.
It crunches in cooperation
The program was launched by France and Germany, but now also Spain has joined. Although all three governments insist that they are fully committed to the development of a future fighter system, it is crunching in concrete cooperation.
The German side had made the condition that money for FCAS should flow only if the common German-French main battle tank progressed. But that had long failed due to internal German strife, because the cooperation partners Krauss -Maffei Wegmann and Nexter not with Rheinmetall could agree. Rheinmetall was not initially planned, but also wants to participate in the project. This hurdle should now be eliminated, it says in Paris.
More difficult are the different views regarding the financing of the project. France is in favor of already providing a sufficient financial framework, while the Bundestag wants to make the funds available only in small steps.
According to insiders, another problem is that the German side would like to use Spain's participation to spend a little more time. Concrete technical contracts with industry should not be awarded until Spain provides funds and signs contracts.
France is getting impatient
France does not want to wait that long, because so far it is completely unclear whether there will be a governing majority after the elections in November in Madrid, which can also decide on a budget – which has not been the case in recent months.
Moreover, it has not escaped Paris that the Grand Coalition is approaching its expiration date in Berlin. If the next contracts for FCAS are not in the bag, you can mothball the project.
Eventually, the French are getting impatient, because the Grand Coalition has still not transcribed the common rules for arms exports that have come about in long negotiations between the German and the French experts. The SPD apparently wants to choose their new leadership first and then tackle the delicate issue of arms exports.
On Wednesday, French Defense Minister Florence Parly will try to dispel the differences at a meeting with her German colleague, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The question is whether next week's joint Council of Ministers in Toulouse will really make the advances that the industrialists hope for.
(t) TagToTranslate France (t) Europe (t) Angela Merkel (t) Emmanuel Macron (t) Aircraft (t) Military (t) Defense Industry (t) Economic Policy (t) Rheinmetall (t) Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (t) Airbus Defense (t) SPD (t) Dassault (t) Nexter (t) Dirk Hoke (t) Eric Trappier