Franco-German cooperation around the SCAF program again in turmoil

Barely a year ago, the Future Air Combat System, or SCAF, which for 4 years has brought together France and Germany, later joined by Spain, and aims to develop the replacement for the French Rafale and Eurofighter German and Spanish Typhoons, faced several critical problems threatening even the continuation of the program. Whether it is the distribution of the industrial load between the industries of each country or problems concerning the intellectual property of certain technologies previously developed by Dassault Aviation, discussions were on hold, until a political impulse from the Elysée and the German Chancellery, which offered a minimum way out to allow the Bundestag to validate the financing of the design phase of demonstrators and prototypes, before the summer break and the German legislative elections in September.

However, and as we wrote then, this agreement did nothing to solve the underlying problems which were blocking the continuation of the program and of Franco-German cooperation, suggesting that these would reappear sooner or later. Since then, many events have complicated the already tense situation between Paris and Berlin, with a new coalition at the head of Germany without Angela Merkel's CDU, and disappointing German arbitrations from the French point of view, such as the return of the hypothesis of the acquisition of the F-35 by Berlin to replace the Tornado of the Luftwaffe dedicated to NATO's nuclear sharing missions or Berlin's acquisition of Boeing's P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft almost certainly condemning the MAWS program which was to produce a European aircraft for this mission. At the same time, Dassault Aviation saw its industrial and technical credibility skyrocket with an exceptional year in the field of exports for the Rafale, which recorded 146 new orders in 2021, making the most exported device of its generation on the planet.

The replacement of the German Tornado dedicated to the NATO nuclear sharing mission continues to weigh on the future of the SCAF program, with the return of the hypothesis of the F-35 for the Luftwaffe

In fact, it is in no way surprising that the CEO of Dassault Aviation, Eric Trappier, is coming back to the media scene about current difficulties encountered in negotiations with Airbus Defense & Space regarding industrial sharing around this program. Indeed, the French aircraft manufacturer is more legitimate than ever to demand the piloting of the production of the Next Generation Fighter, the first pillar medium fighter of the SCAF program, and this all the more so as the French industry has already made numerous concessions to the German and Spanish industries in the other 6 pillars of the program, in contradiction with the paradigm of "best athlete" on which the program was initially to be based. At the same time, the now probable arrival of the F-35 within the Luftwaffe mechanically reduces the urgency of the need for a replacement for the Typhoon by 2040, putting Germany in a position of strength against France which, it has no intermediate solution on which to rely.

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