The defense ministers of France, Germany and Spain have reached an agreement on the way forward in the trilateral program to develop the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
The agreement, announced on May 17, allows the countries to start Phase 1B and Phase 2 of the program.
Phase 1b will strive to develop a flight-capable aircraft by 2027, while Phase 2 would deliver a demonstrator for first tests. Officials previously hoped to have a first demonstrator ready by 2026.
It should noted that the announced agreement means that the respective governments can now start processes for the formal validation of the deal. This is especially important for Germany, whose government will now have to secure parliamentary approval for the program before this year’s elections in the autumn.
“In an increasingly and challenging context where air superiority is severely challenged by fast growing threats, NGWS/FCAS program (Next Generation Weapon System within a Future Combat Air System) directly contributes to national and European sovereignty and security,” the three defense ministers said in their statement.
“The discussions conducted by DGA1, BMVg2 and DGAM3 during the last months allowed to achieve a balanced agreement between the different partners for the next step of the demonstration phase of the program.”
One of the roadblocks on the path to advance to the next stage of funding was France’s reported reluctance to share information on sensitive technologies to partners. Reports from earlier in the year also indicated that Germany wanted an equal industrial share, and the inclusion of Spain into the project in 2020 only complicated the process of dividing the share of work.
The NGWS will be composed of a “New Generation Fighter,” which will operate alongside remote carrier unmanned aerial platforms in a “combat cloud” designed to achieve information dominance.
NGF is envisioned as a replacement for France’s Rafales, and German and Spanish Eurofighters from the 2040s.
The French defense ministry revealed that contracts for work under Phase 1B would be worth around 3.5 billion euros ($4.3B). The cost is to be shared equally between the three countries.
In total, the cost of the FCAS program is likely to reach 100 billion euros according to latest estimates.