On February 20th, France and Germany signed a 150 million euro ($161.84 million) deal to develop a prototype of the next generation fighter jet.
This is another attempt by Europe to become more self-sufficient in defending itself and end its decade-long dependence on US deployments, which seem to be getting bigger as time goes by.
Dassault Aviation and Airbus will build the aircraft, which is expected to be operational from 2040 with a view to replacing Dassault’s Rafale and Germany’s Eurofighter warplanes.
“This is a very ambitious project between France, Germany and joined by Spain,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told reporters after a signing ceremony.
“It will enable our nations to face the threats and challenges in the second half of the 21st century … and illustrates our will and ambition for a European defense.”
The German parliament approved the funding on February 12th, voting to pay 77 million euro ($83 million), for the first prototypes of a “new generation fighter” for European armed forces.
In addition to giving the project the green light, German lawmakers also tied conditions to the plan, including a request for a German-led tank development initiative to go alongside the FCAS project.
“We are going to do it because we don’t want to worsen Franco-German relations, especially just before Emmanuel Macron comes to the Munich Security Conference,” Reinhard Brandl, the parliamentary representative for the project said.
Following the Bundestag vote, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted that concrete action on European security and defense policy is necessary.
Europäische Sicherheits- & Verteidigungspolitik brauchen wir nicht nur auf Papier, sondern im konkreten Handeln – vor allem zwischen 🇩🇪🇫🇷. Ich freue mich, dass wir heute gemeinsam mit dem Bundestag einen wichtigen Schritt für das 🇪🇺 Kampfflugzeug der Zukunft gegangen sind. #FCAS
— A. Kramp-Karrenbauer (@akk) February 12, 2020
“We need European security and defense policy not only on paper, but in concrete action – especially between, I am pleased that today together with the Bundestag we are taking an important step towards Fighter aircraft of the future.”
The new Future Combat Air System’s (FCAS) contract includes the initial research and technology for the prototype aircraft, the engine, drones to accompany the warplane and an air combat cloud.
The prototype will see total investment of about 4 billion euros before it is completed in 2026. Production of the jet is due to begin in 2040.
The project faces competition from Britain, which in 2018 launched its own plans for a new combat jet dubbed “Tempest”.
According to Reuters, unnamed French officials have said that they hope the Tempest and the FCAS would be merged into one eventually.
Industry executives have urged European capitals to move swiftly or risk losing out in a global market to bigger players.
This is another example of the EU attempting to, at least partially, distance itself from the US in terms of defense and security and rely less on its support, and have to succumb to its pressure less as a result.
During the Munich Conference, it became quite apparent that the EU is skeptical in Washington’s ability to deliver on security and on the honesty of its presumed diplomatic and military policy, judging by the reaction to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s speeches.
“Under its current administration, our closest ally, the United States of America, rejects the very concept of an international community,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in the conference’s opening speech.
“Every country, it believes, should look after itself and put its own interests before all others. As if everyone thinking of himself meant that everyone is being considered,” he said, according to an official transcript.
“‘Great again’ – even at the expense of neighbors and partners,” Steinmeier said, referring to Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Thus, it should be expected that likely more and more projects could be initiated between the EU countries, without involving the US in them.
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