PARIS (Reuters) – France and Germany unveiled plans on Thursday to develop a European fighter jet, burying past rivalries as part of a raft of measures to tighten defense and security cooperation.
The move to develop a new warplane accelerates steps that are expected to shape the future of the European fighter industry and its three existing programs – the Eurofighter, France’s Rafale and Sweden’s Gripen.
The move also reflects efforts to give fresh impetus to Franco-German relations in the aftermath of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and was described by defense experts as a snub to Europe’s leading military power..
France and Germany aim to come up with a roadmap by mid 2018 for jointly leading development of the new aircraft to replace their existing fleets of rival warplanes, according to a document issued after a Franco-German cabinet meeting in Paris.
“Today there are too many European standards and qualifications and sometimes there is competition among Europeans internationally,” French President Emmanuel Macron told a news conference, flanked by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“I can confirm this is a deep revolution but we are not afraid when they are carried out peacefully, in a structured way and over time,” Macron said.
France and Germany said their new combat system, which analysts say could involve a mixture of manned and unmanned aircraft, would replace the Rafale and Eurofighter, rival jets that compete fiercely for global sales.
That would mark the end of a decades-long split since France withdrew from the Eurofighter project in the 1980s to produce its Rafale warplane with Dassault Aviation.
Defense industry experts called the move a setback to Britain and its leading arms contractor, BAE Systems.