Plan B for the French next generation fighter jet

The article was published in Defence24. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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PARIS, (BM) – The president of the French aviation giant Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier, complained at a press conference about problems with the “European” Next Generation Fighter (NGF) program, which in turn is part of the FCAS (Future Combat Air System) developed by France, Germany, and Spain. It is mainly about the division of responsibilities between individual work elements and intellectual property issues.

As previously agreed, it is the French Dassault that is the consortium leader creating the FCAS program and thus was to represent the French 50% industrial commitment as the number one company. Of course, apart from it, other giants of the French defense industry, such as Thales and Safran, are also foreseen in work. The remainder of the work and funding was to be undertaken by Airbus, representing Germany and its industry. The situation got complicated when Spain joined the program.

The politicians then decided that each country would take over 33.3% of the total workload and orders. The problem is that Airbus mostly acquires the Spanish aviation industry. The upshot of this is that Airbus would lead companies that together makeup almost 67 percent of the program. Meanwhile, Dassault Aviation, despite being the leader, would be directly responsible only for 33.3 percent wash.

What Trappier said?

Trappier said that he even accepted such an arrangement. Still, in the current situation, the problem is the division of specific tasks, including the most complicated elements, and thus the most difficult to create. Such as the integration of individual components and the possibility of cooperation of particular drone classes with manned fighters.

Trappier complained about planned joint (i.e., shared between France, Germany, and Spain) work packages in which he believed “no one will be responsible for anything”. He cited the flight control system as an example. “There is no boss, but we lead this program and as such are responsible for him to our government,” he said. He further added that his company must have some enforcement capacity to take responsibility for specific arrangements.

The president of Dassault Aviation is also dissatisfied with the IPR issues in the program. Its participants are admitted to all technologies used, and there will be no “black boxes” in it. However, as Trappier says, “the creator remains the owner, and we have 70 years of experience. Nobody will force me to give up my intellectual property.”

He continues to believe in the program

At the same time, Dassault’s CEO declares that he “continues to believe in the program,” which is an “effective way” for three countries to produce a sixth-generation aircraft at a “reasonable price”. At the same time, however, he mentioned a “plan B” in case “plan A” fails. In this way, he made it clear that if Paris did not reach satisfactory agreements, then France could not rule out the possibility of creating at least a manned fighter by itself.

He reminded us that his country has all the powers to do so. “Dassault knows how to build a machine structure. Safran knows how to build aircraft engines. Thales knows how to make electronics, and MBDA knows how to make missiles. So the French industry has all the necessary know-how,” he argued.

France has a tradition in the production of fighter jets

Indeed, France has been a producer of combat aircraft since its inception and created its designs of combat jets of all subsequent generations up to Rafale, representing the 4+ generation. Rafale is a fighter with its variant to operate with aircraft carriers and is fully multi-purpose, including the ability to perform nuclear deterrence missions. On the other hand, the essential Airbus experience for combat aircraft is the Eurofighter Typhoon, which, however, does not currently have a naval version, nor is it used to carry nuclear weapons.

France’s exit from the “European” fighter program would be nothing new. Precisely the same happened in the 1980s when France quit the plan that led to the creation of Eurofighter. At the same time, the French created Иьоьев. This time it was supposed to be different, and the FCAS system with the NGF fighter was to be a universal European machine.

FCAS and Brexit

However, this did not happen. Britain was threatened with expulsion from FCAS over Brexit. However, instead of bending her, she started her own Tempest fighter program. She managed to involve Swedish companies, led by Saab, and Italian Leonardo, in it.

All this means that the FCAS program is currently less international than Eurofighter in its final shape. It lacks companies from two countries that are extremely important when it comes to the aviation industry. Instead, France is in it, but if it also introduces its “plan B” then only Airbus and smaller German and Spanish subcontractors will remain in the program. The potential and the German-Spanish experience could turn out to be much weaker compared to what the Tempest program represents and what a stand-alone French plane could turn out to be.

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