Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Europe’s Next-Gen Fighter Jet Program (FCAS) Finally Gets Green Signal; Will Replace Typhoons, Rafales

Europe’s next-gen fighter program ‘FCAS’ has finally cleared roadblocks as defense ministers of France, Germany, and Spain reached an agreement on the more than $120-billion project.  

After successfully developing the Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale, European aerospace giants Dassault Aviation and Airbus have come together to collaborate on the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program.

This new generation combat aircraft would incorporate futuristic technologies and replace Rafales and Typhoons in service, starting from 2040.

Earlier in March, it was reported that Dassault had been in a tussle with Airbus over the aircraft’s feasibility, and who would lead the program. The contention was revealed when representatives of both companies were called by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Armed Forces of the French Senate, to discuss the relevance of the project and its viability.

The FCAS is a trilateral program involving Spain, France, and Germany, and brings together many European companies led by Airbus and Dassault.

While both the companies have agreed to a 50:50 share in the aircraft’s development, Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, had criticized the inclusion of the Spanish branch of Airbus, stating imbalance in negotiations.

The dispute temporarily cast a shadow over the FCAS project.

There were many points of contention including those of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and ownership, the Dassault CEO said that his company was even ready for a ‘Plan-B’ in case the situation isn’t resolved. But, the new consensus still doesn’t answer the IPR problems.

However, on March 17, Dirk Hoke, CEO of the defense wing of Airbus, along with Antoine Bouvier, the head of Airbus strategy, mergers and public affairs, was called before the French senate to testify, just like  Dassault CEO Eric Trappier.

Hoke stressed that there is no alternative to the FCAS program. Urging to calm the tensions amongst themselves, he said that “there is no plan-B”, in response to Trappier’s apprehensions.

He tried to put a broader perspective of Europe’s greater interests, and that the failure of the program would have lead to more dependence on the US.

Following this, a consensus was reportedly reached in early April. The agreement was first reported by La Tribune and mentioned that the two lead companies have resolved for political talks, putting the work back on track among the three partner nations including many European firms.

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