French aerospace companies Airbus and Dassault Aviation have signed an agreement to collaborate on a project to develop a new generation of fighter jets.
The development of a new generation of fighter jets will form a part of Europe’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS), and will seek for the new jets to complement, and eventually replace, the current generation of Airbus’ Eurofighter jets and Dassault’s Rafale jet at some time between 2035 and 2040.
The announcement was made at the ILA Berlin Air Show, taking place from 25-29 April in Berlin, Germany. It was not revealed in the announcement which company will take the lead on the project, although speculation before the event suggested that Dassault was seeking to adopt the lead role.
What will be expected of the new jet?
The new project will deliver on the defence needs of France and Germany, and although the two governments have yet to establish their requirements for the programme, it is expected to include unmanned aerial vehicles and other cutting-edge capabilities. To reach its 2040 deadline, the development of the new jet will need to begin as soon as possible, and France and Germany are expected to carry out studies to determine their requirements this year.
Demonstrators for the technology are expected to be ready for development by 2025, and the project partners have suggested that the new combat jet would use the Lockheed Martin F-35 as an inspiration, but that the new fighter would be far more ambitious.
What did the stakeholders say?
Airbus’ Defence and Space CEO, Dirk Hoke, welcomed the announcement, and the commitment that the two companies have made to developing a new generation of fighter jets together. He said: “We are still competitors, so it was not a given to sit here and say we can do it together… The role on both sides is to find the right compromises. If we play egos we will end up with a project that won’t be successful.”
Hoke added that given current trade concerns between the US and EU, Europe cannot rely on purchasing defence equipment from other countries, saying: “Never before has Europe been more determined to safeguard and foster its political and industrial autonomy and sovereignty in the defence sector. Airbus and Dassault Aviation have absolutely the right expertise to lead the FCAS project.”