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Fears Britain could be frozen out of new European fighter project

Fears are growing that British defence giant BAE Systems will be frozen out of a programme to develop a new warplane after Airbus and Dassault teamed up to build aerial combat system to replace the current Eurofighter and Rafale jets.
The Franco-German programme could come into service between 2035 and 2040 and take the form of a new fighter plane or even a fleet of drone aircraft controlled by a “mothership”.
Speaking at the Berlin air show, Airbus and Dassault chiefs made no direct mention of BAE - the world’s third-largest defence business - taking part, calling the new project a “landmark” in “securing European sovereignty and technological leadership in the military aviation sector for the coming decades”.
“Never before has Europe been more determined to safeguard and foster its political and industrial autonomy and sovereignty in the defence sector,” said Dirk Hoke, head of Airbus’s defence business. “Airbus and Dassault have absolutely the right expertise to lead the FCAS project.”
Fears Britain could be frozen out of new European fighter project

Dassault builds the Rafale, which directly competes with the Eurofighter

Credit:
AFP
Currently the two businesses compete for fighter sales, with Dassault producing the Rafale, and Airbus part of the Eurofighter consortium.
The latest move follows pledges last summer by France and Germany to tighten defence links with the new aircraft, called the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
At the time BAE, which is a partner in Eurofighter, indicated it was not concerned about development.
Chris Boardman, head of BAE’s military aircraft arm, said he was “absolutely convinced that we, the UK, BAE Systems, will one way or another have involvement”.
But announcing the collaboration with Dassault, Mr Hoke said that in the near term decisions had to be made “whether to include or exclude the UK in certain projects depending on how Brexit will progress. If it’s a hard Brexit, it will be a very difficult decision”.
Fears Britain could be frozen out of new European fighter project

The Eurofighter is one of the most advanced aircraft in the world

Credit:
Sgt Ralph Merry /RAF
Britain and France have previously worked together on unmanned combat aircraft, combining research from BAE's Taranis drone with France's Neuron, a programme headed by Dassault.
The FCAS announcement described the agreement as “strengthening political and military ties between Europe’s core nations”.
Fears Britain could be frozen out of new European fighter project

BAE's Taranis drone helped in Anglo-French research on unmanned aircraft

Credit:
BAE Systems
However, it did appear to offer some hope that other partners could join, pointing to the “importance of efficient industrial governance in military programmes”. This, it said “includes the involvement of other key European defence industrial players and nations based on government funding and on the principle of best contribution”.
Fears Britain could be frozen out of new European fighter project

BAE Systems has a workshare deal giving it 15pc of the F-35 programme

Credit:
SAC Tim Laurence/RAF
Defence analyst Howard Wheeldon said he would be surprised if the UK - and BAE - were not involved in some part.
“Britain has invested in capability - the sub-systems and weapons that go into making an aircraft work - rather than the platform itself,” he said. “Capability that makes a platform perform is much more important.”
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He added that Eurofighter - the last pan-European combat jet - had been slowed down and made more expensive by political infighting. Issues included German members of the consortium having trouble convincing their country to buy the aircraft, and France throwing hurdles in its way, which led to the country leaving and developing the Rafale on its own.
A spokesman for BAE said it was working with the UK Government, RAF and industry on plans to develop a combat air strategy to "develop Britain’s world-leading combat air capability".
He added: "We welcome debate about the need for next-generation combat air systems across many nations. We have a strong history of collaboration with other nations and continue to invest in new technologies so we can develop aircraft of the future."
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