FCAS, MGCS: Franco-German cooperation restarts on good foundations against a background of concern

For almost a year, the two flagship programs of Franco-German defense industrial cooperation, the Future Air Combat System, intended to replace the Rafale et Typhoon, and the Main Ground Combat System to replace the Leclerc tanks and Leopard 2, encountered immense difficulties around sharing and industrial cooperation between the French players, Dassault aviation and Nexter, and their German counterparts, Airbus DS and Rheinmetall, putting both initiatives at a standstill. After many months of standoff and tense declarations, no agreement seemed in sight at the beginning of September, everyone stuck to their positions, and the failure of these programs began to be very clearly envisaged, both from the point of view of industrial view with the “Plan B” of Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault, as well as by the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Pierre Schill, with the extension and modernization of the Leclerc.

This deadlocked and deadly situation brought the French and German Ministers of Defense to regain control of the two programs at the end of September, in an attempt to get the FCAS and MGCS out of the rut they had been in for several months. If this approach made it possible, according to the declarations of the industrialists, to make some progress, the most critical fixing points seemed, as for them, just as divisive as previously, so that the hope of seeing the two programs succeed seemed very slim. , at least until a week ago. Indeed, on November 25, La Tribune business site announced that an agreement had finally been reached on the MGCS program, particularly around the sticking points between the German Rheinmetall and the French Nexter. At the same time, Airbus DS and the German Ministry of Defense announced that another agreement had been reached on the first pillar of the FCAS program, the NGF fighter, with Dassault Aviation. Although the information was denied by Dassault a few hours later, and despite a second false start by Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne during her visit to Berlin, confirmation of an agreement was finally published by Dassault Aviation yesterday, paving the way for the execution of phase 1B of the program to carry out the study in order to design the NGF demonstrator.

mgcs illustration rheinmetall Germany | Defense Analysis | Fighter jets
Representation of the combat tank of the MGCS program

In addition to the resumption of design and collaboration work between the French, German and Spanish teams, the agreements, as described in press releases from manufacturers and articles in the specialized press, make it possible to restart European cooperation on good foundations, which should make it possible to move forward efficiently and calmly on these two programs for the years to come. However, the study of these agreements reveals a most surprising finding. Indeed, it seems that the German manufacturers have accepted the key requirements of Dassault Aviation and Nexter, without any concession appearing on the French side vis-à-vis the German requirements. In fact, if the announcement of these agreements was greeted with relief and enthusiasm, a certain circumspection also surfaced: Why did the Germans thus yield, in appearance at least, to the French?


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