PARIS — A trilateral program to build a new fighter jet and a range of next-generation systems and weapons for Europe has gained some new partners.
The French Ministry of Defense announced on June 20 that Belgium has officially joined the Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) program as an observer. Bringing Brussels into the team in this capacity will not change the current contracts in place between France, Germany and Spain, officials said. Rather, it allows stakeholders to “imagine” how Belgian industry will ultimately contribute to the FCAS program in the future.
The French military said in an announcement on Tuesday that this will also accelerate operational cooperation between the air forces of the four countries.
“We are confident that this cooperation will be fruitful and will serve the interests of European defense against the backdrop of significant changes in technology and international security,” the ministry said.
Defense News reported on June 16 that Brussels is considering joining the trilateral program. As a result, a large number of next-generation aerospace technologies, primarily 6th generation fighter jets, will eventually be available to participating nations around 2040 to replace their fleets. Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale.
According to the French Ministry, another benefit of bringing Brussels under its umbrella will be closer cooperation between Belgium’s defense industrial base and current FCAS suppliers. Dassault Aviation, Airbus Defense and Space, and Indra Sistemas are the prime contractors for the program, representing France, Germany, and Spain, respectively.
The role of observer status is common during the research and development phase of a program, Jean-Brice-Dumont, Airbus’ vice president of military aviation systems, told reporters on Tuesday.
The observer distinction means that the state and its industry are not part of the program’s decision-making team, but “you can fully know.” [the program] “We are preparing further cooperation with our current partners,” he said at a briefing at the biennial Paris Air Show, which is held on the outskirts of the city.
What does Belgium’s entry mean for stakeholders at this point? “I think it’s a little premature to say,” Dumont said. “I think we will be writing history as we go along.”
He highlighted that contracts for Phase 1B and future Phase 2 of the recently launched FCAS program have already been signed with three current partner countries. “So we’re going to sign this deal with three countries.”
He added that the possible expansion of Belgium’s role in the FCAS program first needs to be politically defined between Paris, Madrid and Berlin before an industry agreement can be signed.
The FCAS program, first established between France and Germany in 2017, aims to develop a set of cutting-edge aviation capabilities by 2040. Spain she joined this program in 2020.
This includes next-generation fighter jets to replace participants’ fleets of Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, new engines for the fighter jets, next-generation weapons systems, new drones, advanced sensors, and stealth technology and air combat clouds. network.
After nearly two years of delays due to industry work-share disputes, FCAS prime contractors have signed an agreement to proceed with Phase 1B in December 2022, while industry partners will spend the next two years finalizing the program’s architecture. become.
French Air Force Chief of Staff General Stéphane Mille said in an interview with Defense News on June 8 that Phase 1B will officially begin in April of this year and is scheduled to run until 2025. Phase 2 will then focus on developing a prototype fighter jet, with demonstration flights scheduled for 2029, two years later than originally planned, he said.
Vivian Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, and contributes to Defense News’ European coverage. She previously served as a reporter for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy, and Dayton Daily News. She was named Best Young Defense Journalist at the Defense Media Awards in 2020.