Clouds looming over FCAS?

By Paolo Valpolini

18 March 2021 – The sky over the Future Combat Aircraft System (FCAS), the Franco-German programme recently extended to Spain, seems to become overcasted, according to a press release issued today by the French  Senate Commission on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces, following the audition of Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation CEO, Antoine Bouvier, Head of Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions and Public Affairs at Airbus, and Dirk Hoke, Airbus Defence and Space CEO. According to the document the FCAS seems to lose momentum and lift, and is getting close to the stall speed. The FCAS is one of the two Franco-German programmes, open to other European participants, the second being the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), which will replace in due time main battle tanks and other heavy armoured vehicles. Germany had the lead on the MGCS, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann being the design authority of the most widely produced Western European MBT, the Leopard 2, while France, through Dassault Aviation, had the lead on the manned element of the FCAS, unmanned remote carriers and combat cloud falling under Airbus. According to information this balance seems to be disputed, which is causing frictions and is putting the programme at risk. France aims at adding to the FCAS naval aviation as well as nuclear carrying capabilities.

“Failure would only benefit our economic competitors and our strategic adversaries,” said Christian Cambon, the Chairman of the Senate Commission. “We must return to a win-win spirit and rebuild the foundation of trust on the principles of 2017-2018, which are not negotiable”.

The document states that  the FCAS is an essential project for European strategic autonomy by 2040. The total cost of the program (50 to 80 billion euros) cannot be assumed by a European country alone:​​a founding cooperation for European defense being needed.

How much such a situation might see the balance shifting towards the cooperation with some other players is to be seen. The coming months might be pretty interesting in the European military aviation arena.

Image courtesy Dassault Aviation