MADRID — With Spain on track to join a Franco-German quest for a new European combat aircraft, lawmakers in Germany next week are expected to decide on Berlin’s initial funding contribution.
June 5 will be the penultimate session of the Bundestag’s Defence and Budget committees before the parliamentary summer break begins in late June. It is also the last opportunity to secure approval for a €65 million (U.S. $72 million) study contract for the Future Combat Air System before the June 16-23 Paris Air Show. German and French officials envision some level of pomp and circumstance at the event to cement their ambitious sixth-generation fighter plans.
For now, the idea is to have a framework agreement signed by the two defense ministers, Florence Parly and Ursula von der Leyen, even if final approval by German lawmakers remains outstanding. In that case, a contingency clause would be added to the text to reflect that the pact is preliminary until Germany’s legislature approves it.
Defense officials in Berlin said they eventually expect parliamentary approval, but acknowledged that the timing is tight.
Meanwhile, staffs are working behind the scenes to modify the slate of program governance documents to reflect Spain’s participation. It remains to be seen whether those tweaks, which include questions of intellectual property ownership, can be sorted out in time to warrant a senior-level Spanish government representative joining the festivities at Paris.
A German defense spokesman stressed that Spain’s participation in the FCAS program was assured and that only legal matters had yet to be sorted out.
In that spirit, Germany’s choice to lead a delegation to the inaugural FEINDEF defense expo in Madrid, Spain, appears apt: Luftwaffe Brig. Gen. Gerald Funke, who also oversees FCAS planning for Germany, could be spotted at the opening event.
If the Bundestag approves, a full integration of Spain into the program would amount to addressing the “devil in the details,” he told Defense News.
Airbus and Dassault are the main contractors for the ambitious air warfare program. Including Spain likely would mean that Airbus, which has a sizable footprint in the region, will reshuffle its share of work to include Spanish industry.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.