Is Europe's 6th Generation Stealth Fighter In Trouble?

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Is Europe's 6th Generation Stealth Fighter In Trouble?

Both countries are unhappy with their Future Combat Air System project.

France and Germany have gone to war multiple times in the past, and while they’re now allies, the two countries now find themselves at odds over a joint weapons system.

Those countries, along with Dassault, Airbus and Indra, teamed up back in 2017 to develop the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), or what many consider a 6th generation stealth fighter jet, which in part would include a shared fighter jet for Europe, with a goal of completion in 2040. Spain came onboard the project later on.

The project, which began with talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, has been given a price tag of 100 billion euros ($120.4 billion), which makes the largest defense project in Europe. Part of the goal was to replace such existing jet projects as France’s Rafales and Germany and Spain’s Eurofighters.

But now, according to Popular Mechanics, the effort is in trouble, leading to high-level talks between the parties to save the program.

According to the report, France and Germany are at odds over such aspects of the project as classified technology, cost sharing, and jobs.

Another report by Reuters last month said that the talks have “sparked tensions” between Paris and Berlin. According to that report, the talks have “become mired in mistrust and differing visions between Berlin and Paris as well as corporate infighting over workshare.”

The biggest sticking point appears to be intellectual property, with France “particularly sensitive about access to its nuclear-capable supply chain.”

“It’s not a great development that after 4 years, France and Germany are still squabbling over how to work together. The project may ultimately fall apart, forcing the three countries to reassemble into a smaller coalition, team up with other countries, or work alone,” the Reuters report said.

Back in June of 2020, Airbus boasted of FCAS’ abilities to “[own] the sky with the Next Generation Weapons System.”

“By intelligently teaming sixth generation manned fighters with unmanned platforms, the Next Generation Weapon System or NGWS will provide European air forces & navies with capabilities well beyond existing fighters,” the manufacturer said of FCAS on its website. “With no agreed definition of a sixth-generation fighter, Airbus’ understanding is that such a New Generation Fighter or NGF will be a more sophisticated and connected platform than what currently exists.”

The National Interest noted last year that Britain, which had voted to exit the European Union the year before, had not been included in the FCAS project. We also stated that the two countries were working on the continent’s first-ever stealth fighter, and that by 2018, the FCAS was “more a political project than a technical reality—at least at least at this stage.”

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters.