Will Belgium fully join the FCAS program by 2025?


Belgium has officially committed to integrating into the Future Combat Air System or FCAS program by June 2025, according to a statement from the Belgian Minister of Defense Ludivine Dedonder. 

The FCAS program is defined by its stakeholders as a ‘system of systems’ built around a sixth-generation fighter jet. It currently regroups companies from France, Germany, and Spain. On the sidelines of the Paris Air Show 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Belgium would join the program as an observer country. 

In a brief message posted on LinkedIn, Dedonder not only confirmed that the observer agreement was slated for December 2023 but revealed that Belgium plans to fully join the FCAS. 

“In June 2025, Belgium will officially integrate the Next Generation Weapon System/Future Combat Air System program,” stated Dedonder. “The development of a next-generation air combat capability is a unique opportunity for Europe.” 

As reported by the French media outlet Opex360, Belgium hopes to join the program before Phase 2 of the FCAS initiative. The program is currently in Phase 1B, during which manufacturers will design a technology demonstrator of the ‘system of systems’ centered around a sixth-generation fighter jet known as the Next Generation Fighter (NGF).  

New industrial tensions ahead? 

Further negotiations between the participating countries and their manufacturers are expected to occur before the commencement of actual production for the flying demonstrator in Phase 2. Belgium’s full involvement is likely to reignite the tensions that led to a year-long stalemate before industrials reached an agreement for Phase 1B.  

Days before the Paris Air Show 2023, Eric Trappier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dassault Aviation, voiced some reservations regarding Belgium’s participation in the FCAS program.  

“I think we have to stick to what we committed to, which is already not easy: we have to do phase 1B with three countries,” Trappier said during a hearing before the French Senate on May 24, 2023. “I hope that we will continue with phase 2, which will make it possible to fly the future plane, also with three countries. […] The discussions will be longer if we want to expand cooperation.”  

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