PARIS --- The two parties that make up Germany’s governing coalition, the center-right CDU of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Socialist Party, have threatened to block the billion-dollar development of a German-French fighter jet because of continuing disputes over the work-sharing between Germany and France on a parallel joint program to develop a new tank.
The threat was contained in a letter from the two parties’ budget and defense spokesmen to Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen that Reuters viewed on Friday, and that was first reported by Handelsblatt, Germany’s financial daily.
Germans are concerned about whether the German firms Rheinmetall and KMW will obtain the industrial leadership for the development of the German-French tank, and fear the German leadership of the project could be diluted because KMW has merged with the French state-owned company Nexter.
German concerns were such that German politicians had even required in advance lists of the names of Airbus and Dassault executives and their positions within the FCAS project to ensure Germany would be able to secure its rights, Die Welt reported, and that it would ensure the industrial imbalance. This obstacle was finally resolved at the last minute; Die Welt reported yesterday.
“The signing of the documents at the Paris Air Show is another significant milestone in [implementing] the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). It is now important, that France and Germany move equally forward with the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) under German leadership. All relevant German companies should be involved," Matthias Wachter, head of security affairs for BDI, the German industry federation, told Defense-Aerospace.com June 18.
The CDU and SPD now want either to force a merger of KMW and Rheinmetall by September 30 or, failing that, a clear decision as to which of the two companies will take over the leadership of the joint-French tank project. Until one of the two has happened, they say they will block any further advance on the FCAS fighter program in parliament.
The two German-French projects, which are estimated to cost over one hundred billion euros, are intertwined: The fighter, which is estimated to absorb about 90 percent of the funds, is led by France with Dassault, with a significant share to Airbus.
Reciprocally, Germany is to take the lead for the main battle tank program, but German politicians have been suspicious for some time that Berlin could be outmaneuvered by the French government and end up with less than its allotted workshare for its domestic industry.
German fears of being dealt out of its promised workshare is such that it even threatened to derail yesterday’s ceremony in Paris marking the signature of by the French, German and Spanish defense ministers of the next phase of the FCAS future fighter program. "Only by decoupling the fighter jet project from the main battle tank project signatures were now possible," a German insider told Die Welt, which reported that “there is still no agreement as to whether Rheinmetall will join Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and then push ahead with the French arms company Nexter to advance the tank project.”
The German lawmakers’ letter refers to two meetings on May 27 at the Ministry of Defense attended by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, members of the Union and SPD, as well as the heads of the German aerospace and armaments industry. The disagreement between KMW and Rheinmetall had become clear: "Progress in this project is not possible at the present time." Nevertheless, their letter insists that an "equally balanced progress of the two projects" must be ensured, to preserve the interests of German industry.
The goal is therefore now "a consolidation of the German land system industry" or the award project management to one of the groups with, the letter says.
At the meeting of the Budget committee, the Union and the SPD had agreed to release around 30 million euros for a Franco-German concept study for the new fighter jet. However, further steps will only be approved after a clarification of the work-share between Germany and France.