Airbus, Dassault Still Working On FCAS Accord Details

Artist's concept of FCAS.
Credit: Airbus Defense and Space

PARIS—Airbus and France’s Dassault Aviation are still ironing out details of the work sharing agreement they reached last spring for the trinational Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program, according to Airbus Defense and Space CEO Michael Schoellhorn.

“We have still some homework to do. Sometimes you find small devils in the details,” he said during a meeting organized by AJPAE, the French association of aerospace journalists. “We are committed to making it work.”

The thorny negotiations hinged upon improving the technological know-how in partner countries Germany and Spain, while maintaining Dassault’s clear leadership on the New-Generation Fighter (NGF).

“We have come a long way,” Schoellhorn says, referring to progress made since 2017. “Sometimes, the last 10 meters are the most difficult.” Airbus and Dassault want to find a solution that satisfies the needs and interests of both parties, Schoellhorn says. “To have this nailed down into the details requires a bit of work,” he adds.

Airbus (which represents the German and Spanish industries) and Dassault found common ground last spring. Within weeks, the parliaments of the three partner nations approved a combined €8 billion ($9.2 billion) in spending for Phase 1B and Phase 2.

Phase 1B (to start by year’s end) can be described as a research and technology stage that will culminate with a precise definition of the demonstrators. Phase 2 (2024-27) is to focus on the detailed design and construction of the demonstrators. The first flight of an aircraft demonstrator is planned for 2027 and proofs-of-concept are also planned for the engine, the remote carriers and the combat cloud network.

French, German and Spanish defense ministers agreed in late August to proceed with Phases 1B and 2.

Asked about the ongoing formation of a new government in Germany, Schoellhorn did not appear worried by the pacifist reputation of some of the political parties involved. “SPD was part of previous governments [which made decisions on FCAS],” he says. “And the Greens are pro-Europe and have a mixed relationship to defense ... Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer supported a military intervention in the Balkans.”

Is it still technically doable to merge the FCAS and the Tempest program, which gathers Italy, the UK and Sweden? “After some time, a non-return point will be reached,” Schoellhorn answers. But it will still be possible to make them interoperable and compatible with the same combat cloud. “It is a must-do,” he says.

Thierry Dubois

Thierry Dubois has specialized in aerospace journalism since 1997. An engineer in fluid dynamics from Toulouse-based Enseeiht, he covers the French commercial aviation, defense and space industries. His expertise extends to all things technology in Europe. Thierry is also the editor-in-chief of Aviation Week’s ShowNews.