In what is Europe’s largest defense project expenditure France, Germany, and Spain have reached an agreement over the next generation of fighter jets including unmanned drones – the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) – with an expected expenditure of around €100 billion (US$122 billion.)
The new aircraft will begin to phase out the existing German and Spanish Eurofighter, and the French Rafale, from 2040. France in particular was keen to point out that this project was crucial for Europe to strengthen its defense autonomy and face competition from China, Russia and the United States. French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly tweeted: “France, Germany and Spain are building one of the most important tools for their sovereignty and that of Europe in the 21st century.”
The next development phase for the FCAS has been budgeted at €3.5 billion (US$4.25 billion), which will be shared equally by the three countries. According to a French military source, the phase will include finalization of the designs for the combat jet and drone by 2024, plus the construction of demonstrators. Having agreed on the division of financial responsibility, the three countries have, in addition, finally reached agreement over intellectual property rights, a facet of the deal which had recently been holding up negotiations.
Under the terms of the agreement, the fighter jet will not have a black box to help preserve sensitive commercial know-how, according to a French source. However, one problem remains. Germany must obtain approval from its parliamentary budget committee over its share of expenditure, and time is limited as there is a federal election in Germany in September. According to Reuters news agency, the German Defense Ministry has to refer the budget proposed to the Finance Ministry by May 19.