Military Aviation

Development of the European New Generation Fighter paralyzed by a dispute between Dassault and Airbus over “division of labor”

Talks with the German arm of Airbus have been bogged down by a power struggle over “division of labor” that could threaten the project Dassault Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier said.

The development of the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS) as well as that of the New Generation Fighter (NGF) is paralyzed by a dispute between leading industry suppliers.

As reported by BNN Bloomberg, talks with the German arm of Airbus have been bogged down by a power struggle over “division of labor” that could threaten the project Dassault Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier said on Jan. 26, 2022.

“We still have difficulties with Airbus,” Trappier said at a press conference in Paris. “It’s not always easy to negotiate with the Germans.”

Airbus must accept “the expertise will be in France rather than elsewhere,” he said. “What’s clear is that Dassault will be the leader.”

Dassault and Airbus are currently in negotiations on the next development phase of the NGF that wouldn’t enter service until about 2040.

Trappier added that the chance that Germany could order US fighter jets to carry nuclear weapons as part of a longstanding NATO agreement is also weighing on the project.

The impasse comes nearly five years after the French and German leaders agreed on an air-combat alliance that included the new jet, leaving the UK in the cold in the wake of the country’s decision to leave the European Union. London-based BAE Systems, Europe’s biggest defense firm, has gone on to develop the Tempest, a rival warplane, and recruited Italy’s Leonardo and Sweden’s Saab to its camp.

BAE, Leonardo and Airbus collaborate on the current Eurofighter model, a rival to the Dassault Rafale. In forming a new alliance, Airbus had been seeking a more equal role in a successor aircraft.

Dassault’s hand in the battle for supremacy over the NGF may have been strengthened by a run of success for the Rafale, including a bumper order of 80 from the United Arab Emirates. Looking ahead, Trappier said he’s optimistic 2022 could yield additional contracts, citing ongoing talks with India and Indonesia for Rafale planes.

Should the collaboration founder, Dassault retains a plan B, Trappier said, without giving details.

Trappier ruled out a collaboration with the UK, saying talks with that country’s suppliers on the future European fighter have ended and he said that Airbus doesn’t share his vision of how industry should be organized to develop the plane.

The FCAS is a European combat system of systems under development by Dassault Aviation, Airbus, Indra Sistemas and Thales Group. The FCAS will consist of a Next-Generation Weapon System (NGWS) as well as other air assets in the future operational battlespace. The NGWS’s components will be remote carrier vehicles (swarming drones) as well as a New Generation Fighter – a sixth-generation jet fighter that by around 2040 will replace current France’s Rafales, Germany’s Typhoons and Spain’s EF-18 Hornets.

A test flight of a demonstrator is expected around 2027 and entry into service around 2040.

Photo credit: Rama, Own work, via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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