PARIS --- The Bundestag’s Budget Committee on Wednesday approved the release of €32.5 million to finance an initial concept study on the engines of the French-German Next-Generation Fighter (NGF), clearing the way for the first joint study contract to be awarded as planned during the Paris Air Show, which opens here June 17.
While the amount of funding is financially insignificant compared to the program’s development cost, estimated to exceed 8 billion euros over the next decade, it is of great significance as it marks Germany’s first financial commitment to the program.
The €32.5 million euros will pay for Germany’s share of the architecture and concept study jointly awarded to Dassault and Airbus last February, and which will cost €65 million over twenty-four months.
Germany had already given its agreement in principle for the contract at the beginning of the year, but the Bundestag’s vote will make it possible for the two countries’ defense ministers, Ursula von der Leyen and Florence Parly, to formally sign the contracts as planned at the air show.
Also due to be signed there is Spain’s formal accession to the program as a full, risk-sharing partner, following up on the agreement in principle signed in February.
This study contract is only the first of a long series of preparatory research contracts for the NGF and its operational environment composed of support aircraft (tankers, ISR and AEW aircraft), drones possibly to include ‘unmanned wingmen,’ integration of data gathers by satellites and radars, and their general connection into a network exchanging data in real time, which collectively constitute the Future Air Combat System (FCAS). Dassault and Airbus, the program’s industrial leaders, have submitted the first study proposals to the French and German governments, including two contracts to develop and build demonstrators of the future fighter and of its engines.
France wants these two contracts to also be signed at the air show, as officially planned and announced, the first proposals, hoping to obtain very quickly the financing of more detailed studies, but especially of demonstrators. The German government, on the other hand, is more reticent, and not just because of the currently uncertain status of the governing Grand Coalition between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU and the SPD socialist party, further weakened by a strong showing by the Green party in the May 26 elections to the European Parliament.
This weakened, Berlin does not want to be pushed into committing financially to a major arms program before political aspects are agreed, and notably what are the rules that will govern the future export of the FCAS, the NGF as well as other programs that France and Germany have agreed to develop together, including a new tank, new artillery, and a new maritime patrol aircraft.