Two joint projects between France and Germany should be announced during the ILA Berlin Air Show on April 25, 2018.

Towards the first European sixth-generation fighter?

The most awaited project is the new European fighter jet. Throughout the time, the project had different names: Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS) and Future Combat Air System (FCAS, a name shared by the Franco-British combat drone program).

The goal of the joint venture between the two countries is to replace the Rafale and the Eurofighter in both air forces.

In an interview to La Tribune, the French Minister of Defense Laurence Parly announced that “a significative first step” towards collaboration should be taken during the ILA. The two parties are expected to sign a first roadmap (the High Level Command Operational Requirement Document - HLCORD) that would define the needs of both air forces.

The goal is to avoid the mistakes made with the Eurofighter program, which saw France disengage to create the indigenous Rafale because of a divergence of expectations.

Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, answered the questions of the French Parliament on February, 28, 2018. When asked about the hypothetical Franco-German fighter plane project, he appeared open but with a few conditions.

Not much has been publicly disclosed about the newest program yet. It could be a two-seats sixth-generation fighter with the capacity to man combat drones. France will also most likely be asking for a fighter with nuclear capacity and the ability to take off from an aircraft carrier.

Five companies should be involved: Dassault, MBDA, Thales and Safran for the French side, Airbus for the German one. Both sides should start working independently for about a year before eventually joining forces.

The program should be launched before 2020, with first deliveries starting between 2035 (according to Germany that wants to retire its Tornadoes at that date) and 2040 (according to France).

Other countries could join the initiative in the long-term, especially the United Kingdom which is already involved with France to produce an unmanned combat aircraft.

In 2010, the two countries signed the Lancaster house in which they chose to see Dassault and Bae Systems collaborate in what is known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program. That new drone will take inspiration from Dassault nEUROn and BAE Tanaris prototypes.

Merging the two programs was not impossible according to Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, in a conference held on July 26, 2017.

France and Germany’s eyes above seas

The second awaited announcement is the Maritime Airborne Warfare System, the procurement program for a new naval patrol aircraft that was revealed on March 9, 2018 by the German Navy.

The objective is to decommission the 22 Dassault Breguet Atlantique 2 that entered service in 1992 in the Marine Nationale and the 8 Lockheed P-3C constructed in the 1980s and bought to the Netherlands by the Deutsche Marine in 2006.

According to Reuters, Canada, Poland, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Greece should also participate in the project.

The role of those planes is to survey large areas of water to detect enemy ships and submarines. That new project is not surprising, as NATO has recorded an increase in Russian submarine activity in the Atlantic in the past years.

The decision to create a common fighter jet and to replace the naval patrol fleet in two joint programs between Germany and France was taken on July 13, 2017 in Paris. The ILA salon should see a “roadmap” being defined for both collaborations.

The projects come at a time when both governments are advocating for reinforced collaboration in terms of European defense. The biggest interrogation is now to see what will lead the project: Germany’s money, or France’s expertise?