France and Germany signed a €150 million deal to develop a prototype of the next-generation fighter jet. Dassault Aviation and Airbus will build the aircraft, which is expected to be operational from 2040 with a view to replacing Dassault’s Rafale and Germany’s Eurofighter warplanes over time.
That is just a small fraction of the expected 12 billion euros to be invested by 2030, a French defense ministry source said, in order to have the new planes operational toward 2040.
The new Future Combat Air System’s (SCAF) contract includes the initial research and technology for the prototype aircraft, the engine, drones to accompany the warplane and an air combat cloud.
“This is a very ambitious project between France, Germany and joined by Spain,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told reporters after a signing ceremony with his counterparts from the other two countries.
“It will enable our nations to face the threats and challenges in the second half of the 21st century … and illustrates our will and ambition for European defense.”
European aerospace giant Airbus and France’s Dassault Aviation are spearheading the new plane’s development, alongside Safran and Thales of France, German engine maker MTU, and the European missile joint venture MBDA.
“This is really the beginning, there’s no turning back,” Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier said at the contract signing in Paris.
The project faces competition from Britain, which in 2018 launched its own plans for a new combat jet dubbed “Tempest”. French officials have said they hope the two projects will eventually merge.
Industry executives have urged European capitals to move swiftly or risk losing out in a global market to bigger players led by the United States, or even China in the future.