Spain Joins France, Germany in Project to Build 6th Generation European Fighter Jet by 2026
The participating governments hope the future fighter plane would become Europe’s primary combat aircraft over the next couple of decades.
France and Germany have formally been joined by Spain in their initiative to develop a sixth-generation European fighter jet by 2026.
In the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, the Defense Ministers of the three EU and NATO member states unveiled on Monday the mockup of a sixth-generation combat aircraft at the Le Bourget airport north of the French capital Paris.
France, Germany, and Spain hope that the future sixth-generation fighter will become Europe’s main aerial weapon over the next couple of decades, Defense News reported.
The model showcased in Le Bourget appeared larger and flatter than existing comparable fighter planes, and had no additional features.
The chiefs of French producer Dassault Aviation, Eric Trappier, and the defense division of Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space, Dirk Hoke, signed an agreement offering the governments participating in the program work on a next stage supposed to produce a flyable demonstrator in 2026.
In Macron’s presence, German Defense Ministers Ursula von der Leyen and her French counterpart Florence Parly signed a framework arrangement for the project and an implementing arrangement for the initial study phase.
After that, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles joined in a second round of signatures for an updated text of the framework arrangement which made Spain’s participation in the project official.
Spanish companies would thus also join a growing list of suppliers in France and Germany for the 6th generation European fighter jet project.
“[The agreement is] “a big step forward for modernizing the Bundeswehr,” Von der Leyen said, referring to the German military.
“It’s also a great day for the European Defense union. For the first time we initiate a European combat air system. The fact that Spain is joining us today emphasizes this goal,” the German Defense Minister emphasized.
Airbus Defence and Space chief Hoke revealed that Airbus officials have been investing their effort in explaining the stakes in the European project for a sixth-generation fighter plane in order to prepare lawmakers in the German Bundestag (parliament) for the need to allocate several billion euro to it next year.
There have been concerns among German lawmakers that French producer Dassault would get the bulk of the work with the support of the French government. The German industry, on the other hand, would be at a disadvantage given that Airbus is a French-German-Spanish hybrid company.
To assuage such fears, Dassault chief Trappier said the division of labor in the new fighter jet project would reflect the investments made by each of the participating governments.
He further argued that, in spite of any worries in Germany, Berlin would still have a far greater say in the program than it would have had if it had decided to replace its Tornado fighters with F-35 made by US producer Lockheed Martin.
Earlier this year, the Germany Defense Ministry said only Eurofighter and F-18 Super Hornet in the race for new fighter jets of the German military, with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 out of the competition.
In their six-generation European fighter jet project, France and Germany would also have to smoothe out their political arguments over arms exports given the recent German restrictions on sales to Saudi Arabia and other participants in the Yemeni Civil War, which have caused friction between Paris and Berlin.
(Banner image: Emmanuel Macron on Twitter)