File photo: Airbus Photograph:( Reuters )
The two companies want to ensure that Europe retains control over its future weapons systems.
Airbus and Dassault Aviation have signed an initial agreement to cooperate on Europe's Future Air Combat System (FCAS), the two companies said on Wednesday.
They are awaiting details from the French and German governments on the exact requirements for the programme, which is set to include a fighter jet, unmanned aerial vehicles, connectivity and secure communications.
"It's a really important moment to stabilise the European defence industry and work together in a structured manner," Airbus Defence and Space CEO Dirk Hoke told reporters at the Berlin air show.
Germany and France have agreed on the central requirements for a new fighter jet to replace Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale warplanes beginning in 2040, and officials from the two countries will sign an outline document on the sidelines of the show, military sources said on Tuesday.
The two companies want to ensure that Europe retains control over its future weapons systems, Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation said.
"I don't feel that if other European countries buy off the shelf American products that you contribute to strategic autonomy," Trappier said.
Whether the French and German governments decide to involve Britain in future projects would likely depend on the conditions around its exit from the European Union, Hoke said.
France is working with Britain on an unmanned combat aerial vehicle, but that project has not yet progressed as expected.
"It was supposed to go up to the extent of joint demonstrator. For some reason this has not yet been decided," Trappier said.
He said the Franco-German cooperation was different, with it being for a larger system for a manned fighter, whereas the Franco-British project was for an unmanned aircraft.
The two companies have not yet announced who will lead the partnership for the Franco-German FCAS. Trappier said they would each decide who had the best skills and competencies to lead each part of the system.
"The role on both sides is to find the right compromises. If we play egos we will end up with a project that won't be successful," Hoke said.
Airbus and Dassault said it was important for France and Germany to launch an initial joint study this year so they could get demonstrators done for 2025.
The fighter aircraft will replace the current generation of Eurofighter and Rafale aircraft.
Trappier said it would not be a copy of the US F-35 fighter, but would be more ambitious.
Hoke said if Germany decided to buy the F-35 to replace its Tornados, that would mean the FCAS would no longer be feasible.