How French Senate Panel Brokered Talks Between Dassault Aviation & Airbus Over Future Combat Air System (FCAS)

French aerospace company Dassault Aviation and Airbus reached an agreement to remove major obstacles from Europe’s future aircraft program FCAS (Future Combat Air System). The French Senate’s foreign affairs and defense committee has confirmed this.

The agreement, called “a major turning point” by the panel, could be approved by the German Bundestag by summer, according to Defense News.

Diverging government regulations, along with issues of intellectual property rights, funding, and division of labor had stalled the tri-national fighter program till now.

Proposals for the FCAS began in 2017 but Spain joined only later. The Future Combat Air System or FCAS is aimed at developing a next-generation aircraft that could be engaged in future space warfare.

However, the program had hit hurdles over the ‘feasibility’ of aircraft, and who leads the initiative. There was bias on both sides as some French believed that the Germans were making a German aircraft with French money and vice-versa.

A concept of FCAS

In March, disputes between the companies had led Dassault CEO Eric Trappier to talk about ‘Plan B’, which means the French work on their own to create their own system. Dassault believed with Spain’s inclusion, Airbus that has its presence in all three countries will become the dominant company in the program.

The initial plan had been for Dassault to focus on the Next-Generation Fighters but with the inclusion of Spain’s Indra Sistemas, Dassault feels that its brainchild has been taken away from its custody.

In response, Airbus executives Antoine Bouvier and Dirk Hoke appeared before the French Senate’s foreign affairs committee on March 17 stated that there will be no Plan B. Failure to cooperate will lead to the European defense system becoming reliant on American technology and lacking self-sufficiency.

The stalemate has been removed through committee hearings by the French Senate, which acted as a “catalyst” for negotiations. Committee on Foreign Affairs leader Christian Cambon praised the transparency that came along with the procedural hearing for removing the stalemate. With the FCAS back on track, its demonstrator portion will run through around 2026-27, and the entire system will be ready by 2040.

The agreement was important to move onto the next phase, referred to as 1b. With the French Senate’s affirmation, the deal will be presented and passed on to the German Bundestag before it disperses for the summer.