Industry partners Airbus Defence & Space and Dassault are urging the French and German governments to agree funding commitments to rapidly launch demonstrator-phase activities linked to a proposed Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

The companies issued a joint statement on 7 October calling on Paris and Berlin to “take the decisions that are needed to open the next chapter”, while cautioning: “What is at stake is nothing less than our capability to ensure our defence and our autonomy in the air in the second half of the 21st century.”

“Future technologies need to be developed now for subsequent flight testing and qualification,” the partners note. “If Europe does not move forward – and move forward quickly – on this programme, it will be impossible to maintain the development and production capabilities needed for a sovereign defence industry.”

France and Germany in January 2019 committed themselves to conducting a joint concept study on the FCAS. Their respective aerospace industry champions tabled submissions for the project during the Paris air show in June, where Spain’s participation was also confirmed.

“The upcoming Franco-German ministerial council meeting should serve as a catalyst for this joint desire to move forward by rapidly launching this demonstrator phase and committing the partner nations to a reliable funding plan to confirm the sustainable and coherent nature of this European development programme,” the companies say. “It is now up to our political leaders to have the courage to build on this momentum.”

Current concepts call for the FCAS activity to deliver a next-generation combat aircraft supported by so-called remote carrier vehicles and smart weapons, to be ready for operational service by 2040. The new capabilities would succeed current combat assets, including the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon.

Noting that they are “ready, motivated and united to make this programme a success”, Airbus and Dassault conclude their call by urging: “Let’s not lose any more time.”

The Franco-German-Spanish FCAS activity faces competition from the UK’s Tempest project, which has so far attracted support from Italy and Sweden.