The least we can say is that optimism was not de rigueur about the SCAF next-generation combat aircraft program at the Paris Air Forum. Obviously, the two main players in the program, the French Dassault Aviation and the German Airbus Defense & Space, did not manage to agree on the distribution of roles around the Next Generation Fighter pillar, the most imposing of the program which must design the combat aircraft at the heart of the Future Air Combat System, or FCAS. And for Eric Trappier, Chairman of Dassault Aviation, it is now necessary for the decision to be taken at the political level, in order to hope to break the impasse in which the program finds itself, which, according to him, has already taken several years of delay, and should not be able to produce a fully operational combat aircraft until 2050.
For Dassault Aviation, there is no question of sharing the management of the NGF pillar with Airbus DS, as the latter claims. The French aeronautical group believes that it has much richer expertise in this field, with the experience acquired around the Rafale program but also other legendary aircraft designed by Dassault Aviation such as the Mirage 2000, the Mirage F1, the Super Etendard, the Mirage III/5 and the Mirage IV, while Airbus DS can only draw on partial experience with the Eurofighter Typhoon program and Panavia Tornado, two aircraft designed largely by the British aircraft industry. In addition, Eric Trappier recalled that to ensure the management of the NGF pillar, France agreed to cede control of 5 of the 7 other pillars of the SCAF program, to share the management of the thruster pillar with the German MTU, and to entrust Berlin with the piloting of the Eurodrone program, with the consequences that this entails. Although it is not mentioned by the French leader, it is also useful to remember that German companies obtained 6 of the 9 pillars of the Franco-German MGCS battle tank program, again with the aim of balancing industrial sharing between France and Germany.
For Airbus DS and its CEO Guillaume Faury, the perception is quite different. Indeed, the European aircraft manufacturer does not consider itself in any way inferior in technology or know-how vis-à-vis its French counterpart, especially since the group has developed advanced capabilities in certain key areas, as in stealth. In addition, relaying in this the positions of the Bundestag and the Luftwaffe, there is no question for Germany of financing a program of which it would not have complete control, even if this were to be shared with Paris, including with regard to on-board technologies. Finally, even if this is never openly addressed, Berlin fears that by ceding control of the NGF to Dassault Aviation, the SCAF is evolving towards an aircraft that meets above all the expectations and needs of the French air and naval forces, by minimizing the needs expressed by the Luftwaffe.
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