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PARIS — Britain and France plan to issue a joint statement on cooperation on a new helicopter-borne anti-ship missile, British and French defense officials said April 19.
The Cabinet Office of UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the Elysées office of French President François Hollande are looking for a date to issue the communiqué, seen as positive for a common program, a French official said.
A statement could be made as early as the week of April 22.
In Britain, a senior industry executive said London is ready to launch the missile program, known as future air-to-surface guided weapon (FASGW) (heavy), and anti-navire léger (light anti-ship) in France.
Even with a decision now, there will be a gap between entry into service of the AgustaWestland Wildcat helicopter and the new missile.
The planned joint statement follows a recent letter from Hollande to Cameron, who asked for a French commitment to cooperate on the missile. London saw Hollande’s reply as a “favorable arbitrage” for the arms program, the French official said.
A Paris launch would be a political statement as France cannot allow a failure to join cooperative projects, said a senior analyst.
Hollande campaigned for a relaunch of European defense when he ran for office, and now that he is the president it would be hard to back down on a cooperative program with Britain, even if the chief of the Defense Staff and the procurement office say ANL is not a priority, said Jean-Pierre Maulny, deputy director of think tank Institut des Relations Internationales et Stratégiques.
British frustration at a lack of a French response on the missile program has been high, while Paris officials are well aware a reply is long due.
With arms budgets shrinking governments talk of cooperation to share costs, but few common programs have emerged.
One of the ideas the IRIS think-tank proposed in a 2006 report to the European Defense Agency was the creation of a common pool of funds. Governments would put in money, which would be used to finance cooperative programs in the early stages and the fund would be reimbursed. The pool of funds could be seen as a confidence-building measure for cooperation.