Spain is about to join France and Germany in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program to develop a new European fighter jet.
Spanish Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, revealed she was to sign a letter of intent with her French and German counterparts during the next NATO meeting on February 13 and 14, 2019.
A final agreement (Integration Framework Agreement) between the three countries is to be concluded during Paris Air Show between June 17 and 23, 2019, according to Spanish media El Pais. Spain is to invest €25 million into the program in the first two years.
Spain showed interest to join the FCAS program since its launch in July 2017. However, the country had only been offered an “observer” status, as France and Germany wanted to establish a “strong industrial base” before opening to other European partners. On November 28, 2018, Robles formally wrote to her counterparts asking for full integration, which was accepted on January 30, 2019.
A delegation from the Spanish Ministry of Defense will now be integrated into the team in charge of the initial design phase of the system, while Spanish companies should join the French-German industrial organization.
With Spain owning 4.17% of Airbus, this participation in the project will certainly create jobs within Airbus Spanish facilities, as well as secure the position of the 12.000 people it currently employs. In a similar manner, the request of the Spanish Air Force to acquire about 40 new Eurofighter Typhoons for a total of €4 billion to replace the 80 F-18 fighters currently in the fleet by 2022 will ensure the survival of the Eurofighter assembly line in the country.
Meanwhile, Airbus and Dassault Aviation received a joint concept study (JCS) contract for €65 million from France and Germany on February 6, 2019. The study which should begin by the end of the month is aimed at merging the terms of the High Level Command Operational Requirement Document (HLCORD), signed by France and Germany during ILA Berlin 2018, with the two studies conducted separately by Airbus and Dassault since the beginning of the program. The same day, the two engine manufacturers Safran and MTU Aero Engines signed an industrial cooperation agreement for the motorization of the new-generation combat aircraft.
The aim of the FCAS is to develop a fighter jet that should have the capacity to operate with a wide range of elements connected and operating together, including “swarms” of drones, cruise missiles and existing aircraft. It is set to replace the Eurofighter and the Rafale, and is set to enter service by 2040.