France Says European Fighter Jet ‘Will Be Completed’
France's defence minister sought Thursday to dispel doubts over plans to build the next-generation European fighter jet, saying the project backed by Paris and Berlin "will be completed". The Future Combat Air System (FCAS), as the project is known, is a "priority", Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said at a press conference alongside his German counterpart, Christine Lambrecht, in Berlin. The joint venture, which was launched in 2017 with plans to finish the jet by 2040, is "as anticipated in Berlin as it is in Paris, and will be completed", Lecornu said.
Germany, once reluctant to make big moves militarily, has vowed to speed up and invest heavily in overhauling its outdated and under-equipped army stocks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But the FCAS programme has faced an exceedingly bumpy ride. France, Germany and third partner Spain negotiated for months over how to divide the complex workload that would bring the project forward.
They finally inked an agreement in August 2021 to inject a combined 3.6 billion euros into the project's initial stage, known as Phase 1B. Team FCAS had aimed to launch their own flight demonstrator in 2025 which would subsequently take to the skies two years later. Since then, however, the airwaves have gone quiet for the proposed European hi-tech combat plane.
Contracts have not been signed because France's Dassault Aviation and main partner Airbus -- representing Germany and Spain -- have yet to reach agreement. The European jet has since been taken over by a rival project supported by the British government, known as Tempest. Despite the difficulties "we need to think about what the fighter of the future will look like, because we will need it", the French minister said.
The need for foresight was as urgent for jets as it was "for the tank of the future", he said. "We need to think of a new model of equipment for our armies," Lecornu said, adding that ministers needed to show "perseverence". The French minister said he and Lambrecht agreed "future timescales on tanks", adding that "proposals" to move the project forward would be made at a Franco-German meeting of ministers at the end of October.