France is taking the lead in Franco-German efforts to produce a new European fighter aircraft. The widely expected decision was inked by French and German defense ministers as they moved to further underpin defense industrial relationships between the two countries.

Under the memorandum of understanding signed on June 19, France will take the lead in the joint Future Combat Air System project.

An FCAS joint project team will be established in-country, while work to establish a joint concept study will get underway before the end of the year. These studies will pave the way for architectural work that will lead to the rapid development of technology demonstrators, which could be flown by 2025.

The French defense ministry said the agreements also pave the way for other European partners to join the project.

The FCAS program is currently envisaged as a multi-purpose combat aircraft, which will exploit the potential for “artificial intelligence, network-based combat capabilities, including drones of various types,” French defense officials say.

The German defense ministry says the platform will be delivered without a break in the combat capabilities currently delivered by the Eurofighter aircraft. France wants to use the new aircraft to replace its Dassault Rafale fighters.

The aim is to bring the new fighter into service by 2040.