Airbus and Dassault said that they will join forces to develop a Future Combat Air System (FCAS) for Europe. This follows a declaration of intent made at a summit meeting in Paris last July by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Neither announcement made any reference to British involvement, even though BAE Systems has been working with Dassault since 2014 on a feasibility study—also named FCAS—that has been funded by the British and French governments.
The new Airbus-Dassault partnership was sealed at the ILA Berlin Airshow by Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, and Eric Trappier, CEO and chairman of Dassault Aviation. They described it as a landmark agreement that would develop a next-generation fighter aircraft to complement and eventually replace the Eurofighter and Rafale combat jets by 2035-2040. However, as a "system of systems,” the FCAS would also have a wider scope that would include connectivity and secure communications with cruise missiles and UAVs.
“Never before has Europe been more determined to safeguard and foster its political and industrial autonomy and sovereignty in the defense sector. Airbus and Dassault Aviation have absolutely the right expertise to lead the FCAS project,” said Hoke. Added Trappier, “Both companies fully intend to work together in the most pragmatic and efficient manner. Our joint roadmap will include proposals to develop demonstrators for the FCAS program as of 2025.”
Hoke called upon the French and German governments to define the requirements and timelines by launching a joint study this year.
In March 2016, the British and French governments declared that they would commit more than $2 billion to a joint FCAS development, to follow the feasibility study. But no contracts were ever signed. The new pact between Airbus and Dassault does leave some scope for other parties to join. The pair referred to “the importance of efficient industrial governance in military programs. This also includes the involvement of other key European defense industrial players and nations based on government funding and on the principle of best contribution.”