STUTTGART, Germany — The two companies leading the trinational Future Combat Air System (FCAS) effort have completed a deal on the program’s centerpiece: the next-generation fighter aircraft.
Airbus and Dassault reached an agreement that removed “the main obstacle” to launching the demonstrator portion of the fighter program, said the French Senate’s foreign affairs and defense committee in a Tuesday press release. The agreement, called “a major turning point” by the panel, could be approved by the German Bundestag by summer.
The accord, first reported April 2 by La Tribune, comes after months of simmering doubt that the FCAS lead executives would be able to resolve important issues for the program’s progress — namely, intellectual property rights and workshare agreements between French, German, and Spanish industries. Dassault Aviation leads the French industry portion of FCAS — also called SCAF — while Airbus represents Germany’s industry and Indra leads Spain’s participation.
The timing is important: Stakeholders hoped to get the next-generation fighter’s contract finalized before the German parliament leaves for its summer recess in late June, in order to keep on schedule for the program’s next phase.
Company executives have previously said that they will begin investing “billions of euros” into the program in this next phase, dubbed 1B, after the results of the ongoing Joint Concept Study are released. Major design elements are expected to be revealed after these negotiations are complete, such as whether the fighter jet will have one seat or two, Airbus officials told reporters in late 2020.
Airbus declined to comment on the Senate’s announcement, citing ongoing negotiations. Dassault Aviation, the industry lead for the next-generation fighter element, did not respond to a request for comment at the time of this article’s publication.
Committee leader Christian Cambon highlighted the Senate’s recent hearings with Dassault Chairman and CEO Éric Trappier and Airbus leaders Dirk Hoke and Antoine Bouvier with playing the “role of catalyst” in the program’s negotiations.
“On these issues that touch directly on the sovereignty and security of future generations, there is a tendency in France to forget the importance of Parliament,” Cambon said in the statement. On such issues, democratic debate and transparency are “indispensable,” he added.
The demonstrator portion of the FCAS program is slated to run through 2026 or 2027, with the entire “system of systems” to be fielded around 2040. Along with the next-generation fighter, the program includes multiple new remote carrier drones, a next-generation weapon system, a brand new jet engine, advanced sensors and stealth technologies, and an air combat cloud network.
Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.