France, Germany, Spain agree to continue development of FCAS combat aircraft – Berlin

BERLIN/PARIS, Nov 18 (Reuters) – France, Germany and Spain have agreed to start the next phase of development of a new fighter jet called FCAS, Europe’s largest defense project with an estimated cost of more than 100 billion euros ($103.4 billion). ), the German government said on Friday.

The defense ministry said in a statement that an industrial agreement had been reached after intense negotiations, confirming an earlier Reuters story that the three countries and their respective industries had struck a deal.

The ministry said it had been agreed at the highest level of government that a cooperative approach on an equal footing would be pursued in the project, which falls under overall French responsibility.

Spain’s defense ministry said Madrid would spend 2.5 billion euros ($2.58 billion) on the project, of which 525 million euros ($542 million) would be paid in 2023. The ministry said the cabinet agreed to these expenditures, but did not provide any other details. .

“The political agreement on FCAS is a big step and – especially in these times – an important sign of the excellent Franco-German-Spanish cooperation,” said German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht.

“It strengthens Europe’s military capabilities and secures important know-how not only for our, but also for European industry.”

Previously, sources had said that the next phase of development for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) was expected to cost about $3.5 billion, to be shared equally by the three countries.

France’s Dassault (AM.PA), Airbus (AIR.PA) and Indra (IDR.MC) – the latter two representing Germany and Spain respectively – are involved in the plan to replace the French Rafale and German and Spanish Eurofighters from 2040 .

“Now some formal steps need to be taken in the respective countries to allow for a quick signing of the contract, which we will have to abide by,” Airbus said in an emailed comment.

French President Emmanuel Macron and then German Chancellor Angela Merkel first announced plans for FCAS in July 2017, which would include a fighter jet and a range of associated weapons, including drones.

Lately, the project – originally intended to unite Europeans after the migration crisis and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union – has been a source of tension between the two countries.

Last month, Macron canceled a joint Franco-German ministerial meeting over disagreements with Berlin on a wide range of issues, including defense and energy projects.

Both sides struggled for more than a year to agree on the next phase of FCAS development, although the French and German governments broadly agreed on the project.

Some sources saw Dassault as the blame, as the company had refused to budge in a lengthy intellectual property rights battle.

Other sources blamed Airbus for pushing for a greater work share from the Dassault-led project, insisting it be given “equal footing” with the French company.

($1 = 0.9675 euros)

Written by Sabine Siebold; Edited by Kirsti Knolle, Christoph Steitz, Louise Heavens and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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