A European Union, United Kingdom next generation fighter program should be negotiated in 2021 because the future likely market will make anything else unaffordable, Airbus’ head of defence has said.
Airbus expects the future expected demand to make multiple European fighter programs unaffordable. Since June 2019 there have been two programmes in Europe, the UK’s Team Tempest and the Franco-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System (FCAS). Airbus’ head of defence and space, Dirk Hoke, wants the EU and UK to discuss a joint programme after the ongoing Brexit trade deal negotiations are finished, and defence collaboration rules finalised. The goal for a Brexit trade deal is December 31 this year; indicating that such EU/UK discussions could take place in 2021.
“We cannot afford two systems of that size being developed in competition in Europe and UK. The market is too small and we need to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past by having Gripen, Eurofighter, and Rafale being developed in parallel,” Hoke said, speaking via a video link on June 16, for the Royal Aeronautical Society’s annual Sopwith Named Lecture. He added: “If we develop these systems in competition, then we would then strive for partners and customers in competition [and] the market is too small to play a leading role in the future. It would be a really, really bad solution for European Union and for UK on the way forward.”
Airbus chief executive, Guillaume Faury, told a UK newspaper in November 2019 that there should be a single European fighter jet programme, merging UK and continental European efforts. Hoke went further in suggesting a possible timeframe for negotiations. FCAS was formally launched by France, Germany and Spain at the International Paris Air Show in June 2019. The project has a 2040 goal for the resulting aircraft’s deployment. Earlier that year, on February 14, 2019, Spain announced that it was joining France and Germany for FCAS.
Tempest was unveiled at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow, as part of a new UK air combat strategy. Tempest would operate from 2035 and become a successor to the Eurofighter Typhoon. The UK government announced a £2 billion spend between 2018 and 2025 for Tempest. On 11 September 2019, it was announced that the UK and Italy had signed a statement of intent for jointly working on future Eurofighter enhancements, Tempest requirements and integrating technologies from Typhoon into Tempest. Earlier last year, on July 19, 2019, the UK and Sweden announced a memorandum of understanding for combat air development and acquisition cooperation, but the statement did not mention Tempest.