Dassault wants to lead the Franco-German fighter cooperation
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.
According to Trappier, the new project has to be made on long-term arrangements. Trappier also questioned concrete and long-term advantages of several past cooperation projects such as the Lancaster House agreement signed by France and the United Kingdom, which led to the Future Offensive Air System (FOAS), a conjoint Franco-British stealth drone based on the Dassault nEUROn and BAE Systems Tanaris. The prototype should currently be under construction.
Trappier also mentioned former dissensions between European countries at the time of the Eurofighter Typhoon development that led to France building its own plane - the Rafale. The needs of each European country were poorly defined: while other partners were aiming for a basic NATO plane, France was in need of a fighter that could equip both its Marine and Air Force, and that could also act as a nuclear platform. According to Trappier, undefined objectives or difference in expectations could become a problem with the new project as well.
There is a legitimate need for a new fighter plane in Europe, Trappier believes: “We don’t have a Cold war anymore, but we certainly have a Hot peace”. On an hypothetical Franco-German collaboration, Trappier agrees to the idea but with a few conditions: “Collaboration cannot be made on a 50-50 basis […] It would be like putting two steering wheels in the same car. It requires leadership,” adds the CEO of Dassault Aviation. And for him, that leadership should be assumed by France: “It is not because the Germans can put more money into it that they have more skills in fighter planes.”
He regrets the choice of other European countries such as Netherlands and the United Kingdom to have preferred the F-35 to the Rafale, and urges the European politicians to push for more independence vis-à-vis the United States when it comes to defense industry and policies. “If European collaboration is needed to counter the American wave (in European defense acquisition), it is in our interest to do so.”