Belgium will join the Future Combat Air System, or FCAS program, initially as an observer country.
The decision was announced by French President Emmanuel Macron following a ministerial conference on air defense in Europe organized on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show 2023.
“This is a major development,” Macron said. “This enlargement will further anchor this project in Europe at the heart of tomorrow’s air defense.”
The entry of Belgium into the FCAS program was touted by Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder on June 10, 2023. It is now confirmed.
“As a country with an excellent aerospace and defense industry, we absolutely could not miss this opportunity,” Dedonder commented after Macron’s announcement. “By joining this project, we are including our country in a structuring program in many areas of technological innovation which will have both military and civilian applications.”
The FCAS program is defined by its stakeholders as a ‘system of systems’ built around a sixth-generation fighter jet. It regroups companies from France, Germany, and Spain.
More industrial dissensions on the horizon?
Ahead of the Paris Air Show 2023, Olivier Andriès, the CEO of the French group Safran, publicly expressed his support for Belgium’s participation in the FCAS program.
However, Eric Trappier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dassault Aviation, voiced some reservations, which he reiterated after the announcement.
“The more partners we have, the more difficult it is,” Trappier said in an interview with BFM. “Regrettably, European nations still want to pursue the concept of a ‘fair return’, whereby each country expects territorial benefits proportionate to its financial contributions.”
“That’s not how we develop the best aircraft,” the CEO of Dassault concluded.