22nd Mar 2018

EU states eye production of new fighter jet

  • Airbus is preparing to make a new fighter jet as the EU rolls out its defence integration project. (Photo: Air Combat Command)

Airbus, the French-based firm, is preparing to make a new fighter jet as the EU rolls out its defence integration project.

Fernando Alonso, the head of the firm’s military branch, told Handelsblatt, a German newspaper, that Germany and Spain have already signed up for the project and that he hoped France would also come on board.

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  • New weapons system to help create EU defence sovereignty. (Photo: Defence Images)

“We are working on various building blocks in Germany and Spain, some of the financing comes from the governments, we hope for more," he said.

“We hope that France will also participate, because we have to work together in Europe, there is no more space for two or three different systems”, he added.

Referring to EU defence integration, he said: “The time is ripe for making and implementing a decision in Europe”.

The Airbus project is to be called the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and is to replace the Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jet models in Germany as well as the F18 in Spain.

If France joined, it might also replace the French fighter jet, the Rafale, when that becomes obsolete in 2030, Handelsblatt said.

Another option would be to buy F35 fighter jets from the US.

But that would be seen as an untimely gift for US leader Donald Trump, who has belittled and confused EU allies since coming to power.

Investing in US fighter jets would also go against the EU’s stated aim to achieve technological and strategic “sovereignty” as part of its new defence plan, which includes a €1.5-billion a year R&D and joint procurement fund designed to stimulate projects such as the FCAS.

Brexit implications

Trump aside, the Airbus project comes as the UK, the EU’s main military power, prepares to start exit talks.

Airbus currently employs 10,000 people at two manufacturing plants in the UK.

But its chief operating officer, Fabrice Bregier, told the Sunday Times, a British newspaper, that unless the UK negotiates an amicable deal with the EU then it will move those plants elsewhere.

He said the Brexit deal must allow its staff freedom of movement to come and work in the UK and must allow it to ship parts free from punitive tariffs.

"For new productions, it's very easy to have a new plant somewhere in the world. We would have plenty of offers to do that," he said.

"We want to stay in the UK - provided the conditions to work in an integrated organisation are met”, he added.

Correction: The article now says Spain aims to replace its F18 jet, not F16, as previously reported.

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