COLOGNE, Germany — The German Defence Ministry on Wednesday sent lawmakers new study plans for the Future Combat Air System, revealing that partner nation Spain has yet to be fully brought along to the next stage.
The government wants to begin five studies at a cost of $85 million, with the same amount coming from France. Officials late last year said Madrid was expected to contribute an equal share. The confidential report to Bundestag appropriators, first reported by the Handelsblatt newspaper, estimates that Spain will only join the next study stage in the third quarter of this year.
The delay is due to renegotiations on the implementing agreement for the project, sources familiar with the document told Defense News.
Airbus and Dassault are the lead contractors for Germany and France, respectively. The Spanish government designated Indra as their national prime contractor last summer, but a work-share agreement between the three companies and their subcontractor clusters has proven elusive.
Spain has lobbied to be treated as an equal partner in the project, both on a government and industry level. Agreements to that effect were signed between the three countries last year.
German officials previously planned to have the Bundestag’s approval for spending additional study funds late last year, with contracts to be signed in January.
Germany’s defense industry is involved in FCAS plans to set up what the document describes as a “system house” configuration, meant to create a single point of contact for the government. One such formation, focused on mission-system elements for the program, already includes Hensoldt, Diehl Defence, ESG and Rohde und Schwarz.
The FCAS program is envisioned as a futuristic air power weapon that will replace the Rafale and Eurofighter fleets in France and Germany beginning in 2040. It consists of a manned aircraft, the Next-Generation Fighter, accompanied by drones of specialized capabilities, like reconnaissance and strike. A so-called combat cloud will pump command-and-control data between all program platforms, essentially creating a flying network of sensors and weapons with the manned Next-Generation Fighter as its hub.
The five studies are to cover fundamental design questions about the overall FCAS system, the main plane’s features, propulsion and sensor systems, a simulation environment, and initial considerations toward maturing system components for eventual production.
Lawmakers are expected to debate the Defence Ministry’s program plan next week during a meeting of the appropriations committee. The document, required for all investments exceeding €25 million (U.S. $28 million), makes the case to quickly proceed with the trilateral project.
A section on risks points to a competing European fighter project led by the U.K., known as Tempest, to which Italy has signed on. The German government sees that development as an impetus to drum up additional FCAS support throughout Europe soon, the Defence Ministry told lawmakers.
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.