Europe’s sixth-generation fighter remains at a standstill amid industrial resentment | New

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Ongoing tensions between industry partners involved in a tri-national effort to develop a sixth-generation fighter seem no closer to being resolved, with efforts to move the project forward still stalled.

Airbus Defense & Space and Dassault Aviation were to sign a contract in 2021 for the creation of a demonstration aircraft for the Next Generation Fighter (NGF) being developed for France, Germany and Spain as part of future combat air system (FCAS). program.

However, this contract – known as phase 1B – is not close to being concluded, according to Eric Trappier, managing director of Dassault, the prime contractor for the NGF works.

“We were ready to move forward, but between September and December it stopped. I don’t know how it’s going to start again,” he told FlightGlobal at last week’s EBACE business aviation show.

While FCAS was originally a Franco-German project, the admission of Spain in 2019 has raised tensions, especially on the NGF, where Airbus now represents both Berlin and Madrid.

“It’s not just a political question, it’s also a question of the division of labor between Airbus and Dassault”, explains Trappier.

“We have made great efforts, [but] for Dassault, we only have a third of the jobs. We are the main architect taking overall responsibility to the Ministries of Defense and want to be able to take on that responsibility without Airbus always saying they want to do more.

Dassault’s main objection is the insistence that intellectual property relating to flight control software be shared between partners. But Trappier specifies that the NGF demonstrator system will be an “off-the-shelf” solution, derived from a Falcon business jet.

“Why should we share our technology on the Falcon with Airbus? Airbus in Toulouse knows how to develop flight controls perfectly,” he argues.

However, with Germany and Spain likely to insist on full cooperation – or at least access to technology – on the flight control system of any future production aircraft, this seems likely to remain a thorny problem.

Tension is also likely to be stoked by the fact that Dassault’s Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon – for which Airbus is the flight control supplier – remain rivals for sales of fifth-generation fighters, with neither side ‘being willing to give up any perceived advantage.

But Trappier contrasts the NGF stalemate with the quadrinational EuroDrone project, which is being led by Airbus and “we’re following them”, he says, adding: “We’re not trying to say we have to know everything and they should do what is necessary”. same [on NGF].” Dassault develops flight controls for the unmanned aircraft.

He says Dassault is still ready to sign the Phase 1B contract, but only within the previously agreed framework, not under rules “which are changed every three months” to meet demands from other parties.

And as the delay in Phase 1B activities continues, Dassault has had to redeploy its project team elsewhere in the company. While a contract signing is still possible this year “it will take me time to bring the team together again,” he notes.

Airbus defends its position, however, noting that agreement has been reached on “the other six pillars” of FCAS development, “where even under defined leadership, the skills and capabilities of each partner are respected and can participate equally. “. , it says.

“Airbus has made several proposals to also converge on the NGF and we support any solution that will respect both the skills of each partner and the leading role of Dassault, leading to a fair agreement.”

“We are convinced that a resolution can be achieved if the rules of cooperation agreed by nations are respected in the NGF, as is the case on other pillars.


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