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France and Germany are planning a roadmap for joint development of a new European fighter jet and replacement of the existing fleet by mid-2018. “Currently, too many European standards, qualifications and sometimes competition among Europeans internationally, delaying technological development,” French President, Emmanuel Macron, said during a news conference along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Officials in France and Germany told defenseworld.net that their new combat system, which analysts say could involve a mixture of manned and unmanned aircraft, would replace the Rafale and Eurofighter, rival jets that compete fiercely for global sales. The move will have deeper effects on the other European fighter jet, Sweden Saab’s Gripen.
The project, which according to reports will be taken on by Airbus, will be named as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). “Germany and Spain have already signed up for the project and we hope that France would also come on board” Fernando Alonso, the head of the firm’s military branch had said last month. “We’re working on various building blocks in Germany and Spain, some of the financing comes from the governments, we hope for more,” Alonso told Handelsblatt, a German newspaper. All this comes at a time when the UK, the EU’s main military power, prepares to start exit talks.
Defense industry experts called the move a setback to Britain and its leading arms contractor, BAE Systems. “It is a sign to the British. It means ‘you are leaving the EU and we are driving forward. We are no longer interested in you blocking the EU on defense’,” a senior German defense industry official told the international media.
Germany and France are also working out specific proposals for a European Union defense fund. “Both countries are aiming to become the motor of a European defense union and want to implement the defense fund in a smart way,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview published last month.