Europe is stepping up its regional defense this week after a deal was struck between France, Germany, and Spain for the development of a new fighter jet. According to Reuters, the jet will have both manned and unmanned capabilities and is the largest defense project ever for Europe, with an estimated cost of about 121.4 billion U.S. dollars or 100 billion euros. As national defense forces continue to strengthen in China, Russia, and the United States, the European states involved agreed it was critical for Europe to up their defense programs to compete. The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) as the jet has been called will undergo another development phase costing 3.5 billion euros, or 4.25 billion dollars, and will be split three ways between France, Germany, and Spain (Reuters).
According to Deutsche Welle, the FCAS will also create next-generation drones and a communications network with artificial intelligence capabilities called the “combat cloud”. Florence Parly, the French Armed Forces Minister stated earlier in the week that the three countries are “building one of the most important tools for their sovereignty and that of Europe in the 21st century,” per Reuters. The hope with the FCAS is that by 2040 all the French Rafale and German Eurofighters will be replaced with the new jets. France’s Dassault Aviation, Germany’s Airbus, and Spain’s Indra, all respective air defense forces will be working together to replace the old jets. Currently, the project is funded through 2024 with each country pledging roughly 141 billion dollars each (Deutsche Welle). The 4.25 billion dollar investment by the three countries will be used to cover the finalization of designs for both the jet and the drone, and will also fund the prototypes for both. While the deal was originally scheduled for late April, Germany and France had disagreements over sharing the intellectual property rights of the jet and drone which delayed progress in negotiations (Reuters). Under terms of the agreement, the jet will not have a black box on board, and therefore will not preserve sensitive information.
Germany is still facing pressure to close the deal as the government hopes to push the funding through the parliament budget committee ahead of elections in September. The approval of the committee is needed before further funds can be allocated and this process is time-consuming. German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer praised the developments earlier in the week saying, “with the fighter jet of the future we are strengthening the capabilities, industry, and technology in Europe,” per Deutsche Welle. On Monday, Parly stated the early prototype would be ready to fly in 2027, a year later than originally projected. Assuming the FCAS develops the prototype with no flaws, the worth of Dassault Aviation, Airbus, and Indra will all skyrocket, making the new defense system an investment opportunity for the public.
While the FCAS may serve as a defense system that brings Europe “up to snuff” with other world powers, for some it triggers a heightened sense of national security. The spokespeople for German, French and Spanish defense forces have lent themselves toward creating a lot of excitement surrounding the jet and FCAS. This increase in excitement and security for the region might cause other powers to retaliate. The development of the jet could easily be used as an excuse for dangerous world powers to increase their own national security. The obvious hope here is that the opposite effect will happen, and many powerful countries will not react with increasing their national defense but will hold a greater respect for European defense systems.
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