France, Germany Award 18-Month Contracts for FCAS Demonstrators
(Source: Defense-Aerospace.com; posted Feb. 13, 2020)
Following approval by the Bundestag's budget committee, Airbus and Dassault Aviation have been awarded interim, 18-month contracts to develop demonstrators for the New-Generation Fighter and its engines. (Dassault image)
PARIS --- France and Germany announced late on Wednesday that they had awarded the initial framework contract (called Phase 1A) for the demonstrator phase of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

This initial contract, however, only runs for 18 months and only funds preparatory work, as the Bundestag’s budget committee, which met Feb. 12 in Berlin, refused to authorize funds for the entire demonstrator phase, which was originally planned to end in 2026 with the flight of the New-Generation Fighter (NGF) and its new engines.

It is also worth noting that, according to the Airbus press release about the contracts, Spain will only effectively join the program in 18 months, for Phase 1B, despite having signed to join with great pomp at the Paris Air Show in June.

“The next important step in the FCAS programme will be the onboarding of Spain and the involvement of additional suppliers from Phase 1B onwards, which will succeed Phase 1A after its successful conclusion,” the Airbus release states. This sentence is lacking from the Dassault press release.

The funds that were approved by the Bundestag – each country will contribute €77.5 million – are enough to pay for the original proof-of-concept work, but not more. The budget committee decided it would fund work for the next 18 months, until the German general elections due in the fall of 2021, but deferred its decision to its successors elected then.

“In plain language, this means that nothing will come of it during the current legislature, and that the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) project will only really get going with the successor of Chancellor Angela Merkel after the general elections scheduled for autumn 2021,” as the German daily Handelsblatt reported Feb. 06.

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Bundestag Approves Funds for German-French Fighter Jet
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Feb 12, 2020)
Bundestag lawmakers approved on Wednesday the initial funds for a transnational project with France to create a new fighter jet and develop a program aimed at bringing together European military forces.

Representatives in German parliament's lower chamber signed-off on [funding] worth €77 million ($83 million) to build the first sets of the "New Generation Fighter." France is expected to contribute the same amount.

The research initiative forms an important part of Germany's joint Future Combat Air System (FCAS) with Spain and is part of a wider plan to draw back on the European Union's long dependency on US aircraft, drones and satellites.

The FCAS project is a "symbol of the capacity of Europeans to work together on a single defense project," Jean-Pierre Maulny, vice-director of the Institute of Strategic and International Relations, said in June.

The project, which hopes to construct the prototypes for European armed forces by 2026 and finish its development phase by 2030, is likely to be operational closer to 2040.

Wednesday's agreement paves the way for contracts to be signed with industrial giants, including Airbus, Dassault and Thales.

Franco-German tensions ease

In addition to giving the project the green light, German lawmakers also tied conditions to the plan, including a request for a German-led tank development initiative to go alongside the FCAS project.

The vote follows months of negotiations among German and French manufacturers over the project.

In December, French and German engine manufacturers finally agreed on how to divide the project.

The majority of German lawmakers voted in favor of providing funds for the fighter jet, despite apprehensions that French manufacturers may receive a bigger share of the project.

"We are going to do it because we don't want to worsen Franco-German relations, especially just before Emmanuel Macron comes to the Munich Security Conference," Reinhard Brandl, the parliamentary representative for the project, told the AFP news agency, referring to the French president.

Competition with Britain

Following the Bundestag vote, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted that concrete action on European security and defense policy is necessary. She referred to Wednesday's vote as an important step for the future of the EU.

In 2018, Britain announced a rival project known as the Tempest. Both Italy and Sweden supported the initiative, prompting Macron to urge last week that the EU must "develop a greater capacity for action" in a time of worldwide instability.

German Greens politician Tobias Lindner criticized Wednesday's decision, saying fundamental implementation issues remain unaddressed including the subject of intellectual property rights and Spain's future role in the project. He said such potential obstacles put into question whether the aircraft can be operated within Germany.

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