PARIS — The top executive of French fighter manufacturer Dassault Aviation welcomed Britain’s plan to build the Tempest fighter jet, the planned successor to the Eurofighter Typhoon.
“It is good news,” Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier said July 19 at a news conference on the company’s financial results for the first-half of 2018. In the early 2000s, Britain didn’t see a need to build its own fighter and instead ordered the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, he noted.
“I see the British have woken up,” he said.
The British project means there will be two European initiatives to build a new-generation fighter, as France and Germany are jointly pursuing a project for a new fighter, which will be flying in 2040.
“There are two roads being followed,” he said.
The British government unveiled July 16 a concept model of the Tempest at the opening of the Farnborough Airshow, a key element in the U.K.’s future air combat strategy.
British defense companies and those on the European continent are “deeply worried” over the lack of progress in negotiations over a new trade agreement as Britain’s departure from the European Union quickly approaches, Trappier said.
“They are not fans of Brexit,” he said, referring to Britain’s exit from the EU.
Trappier is the head of European lobby group Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe, which has published a report on the impact of Brexit on aerospace, defense and security. The future of trade between the U.K. and the EU is still murky.
“A model is just a model,” Trappier said, when Defense News asked him about the model of a twin-engine fighter shown in the company’s video clip titled Next Generation European Aircraft. “On the reality of what will be the Franco-Germany fighter, the operational requirement and specifications are currently being written, so there is not a relatively accurate model to show,” he said.
Even if there were such a model, that would be held confidential, he added.
In an industrial pact signed by Dassault and Airbus, the former will take the lead on the next-generation fighter while the latter will focus on an air tanker and new spy plane, he said.
There will certainly be problems over industrial cooperation, he asserted, but what counted most was the political will of France and Germany to pursue a European fighter. That cooperation should be steered by efficiency and a mastery of the appropriate technology, he added.
Those aircraft will be major elements in the Franco-German Future Combat Air System. Future cruise missiles and swarms of drones will also be in that system.
As to which company will be appointed as the architect of the overall system of systems, that will be a political decision, he said.