European Defence Cooperation Projects: Diverse Flight Paths?


By Pierre Tran

Paris – France and other European nations should work together in military programs to allow Europe to reach “critical mass,” Guillaume Faury, chairman of GIFAS, the aerospace trade association, said Jan. 6, 2022.

It was important there was a “European dimension,” he said at the new year’s press conference held by the Groupement des Industries Françaises Aéronautiques et Spatiales.

Faury was answering in general terms questions concerning a clutch of European projects taking longer than expected to come to contract, or likely to be scaled back, or abandoned because of a lack of cooperation.

Faury is chief executive of Airbus, the airliner manufacturer based in Toulouse, southern France.

President Emmanuel Macron took up the rotating six-month presidency of the European Council of the European Union on Jan. 1. Macron has promoted a stronger role for the EU in defense and security, and it remains to be seen whether the German socialist-led coalition will back that call for greater European sovereignty in military matters.

Dassault Aviation and Airbus Defence and Space are locked in contract negotiations on a technology demonstrator for a future combat air system. Germany is reported to be reluctant to work with France on upgrading the Tiger attack helicopter to standard 3. Berlin is also reported to be likely to drop out of a planned cooperation for new maritime patrol aircraft, dubbed maritime airborne warfare system (MAWS).

Faury said he was optimistic on the European drone project, while the other projects would follow their own flight paths.

On the European project to build a medium-altitude, long-endurance drone, it only remained for Spain to grant approval, as partner nations France, Germany, and Italy have authorized the deal, reported to be worth some €7 billion ($8 billion).

Germany issued in early 2020 a request for information to the US on the Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, specialist publication Janes reported Nov. 24, quoting a Boeing defense, space and security executive.

A low availability of the German Tiger, French media reported, was among the reasons Berlin was reluctant to modernize the combat helicopter, launched as a Franco-German program in the Cold War, intended to counter the Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks that might one day advance through the Fulda Gap.

France was in partnership talks with Spain on upgrading the Tiger, but the lack of German cooperation would drive up modernization costs and cut the number of French army Tiger helicopters to be upgraded.

Germany last year acquired five Boeing P8-A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to replace the German navy’s fleet of Orions. Although German procurement of U.S. kit was billed as an interim measure, the French concern was that Poseidon would be a permanent feature, leaving the cooperative MAWS project dead in the water.

In the absence of German cooperation, a French alternative was reported to be a military adaptation of the Falcon 10X business jet, with the prime contractor Dassault working with Thales, an electronics company.

Meanwhile, Dassault last year won orders for 49 Rafales, comprising 37 for export and 12 for France, the company said Jan. 6 in a statement.

Those orders did not include the 80 Rafales acquired Dec. 3 by the United Arab Emirates, as the contracts were signed but had yet to enter into effect. That UAE deal was expected to be entered into the company accounts this year.

Dassault delivered 25 Rafale fighter jets to export clients in 2021, in line with company guidance, compared to 13 in the previous year, the company said.

The order book rose to 86 Rafales compared to 62 in 2020.

There were no Rafale orders in 2020, the first year of the Covid pandemic, which hit nations around the world.

The financial details would be released on March 4 with its 2021 results, the company said.

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