PARIS — Confusion arose Thursday surrounding the Franco-British Future Combat Air System project, as Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said during the company’s annual results news conference that the project was “terminated.”
However, there has been no formal termination of the agreement. It has simply been downgraded to a technological demonstration: another victim of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
“Brexit tends to absorb the energy and finances of our U.K. partner, who is not necessarily very available to carry out ambitious projects with us,” said Didier Quentin, a member of the French parliamentary foreign affairs commission. Presenting a report on the nation’s 2019 budget last October, Quentin told the commission that France had “just given up on a joint combat drone demonstrator project under the Future Combat Air System (FCAS): it has been replaced by studies on technological bricks which are much more modest.”
The FCAS project was launched in November 2014 between Dassault Aviation and Britain’s BAE Systems.
The project’s status was confirmed by a spokesman for BAE Systems, who told Defense News that the group is continuing “to work with our partners on the Anglo-French program, with a focus on developing mutually beneficial air systems technologies.”
“This work forms part of our overall technology development, contributing to the sovereign capability and national security of both nations, helping to sustain the unique engineering skills-base required to develop the next generation of combat air systems,” the spokesman said, adding that “this is an ongoing program which we anticipate will form an important work stream within the Future Combat Air Strategy.”
This seems to confirm a statement made by Gen. Philippe Lavigne, chief of staff of the French Air Force, at a hearing of the French parliamentary defense commission on Oct. 17, when he said the British “are still standing by us in studies for the Future Combat Air System Demonstration Program (FCAS-DP).”
Quentin explained that France had turned to Germany for defense partnerships “because of Brexit.”
Christina Mackenzie was the France correspondent for Defense News.