France and Germany are clashing over a joint project to build Europe’s most advanced jets yet, marking a “difficult moment” for their close relationship, experts say.
The two countries, along with Spain, are developing the Future Combat Air System but keep clashing over all sorts of issues, including how to fund the project and who they should sell the new jets to.
“One or two of these issues on their own is fine,” says Rym Momtaz, a European Foreign Policy and Security fellow at the IISS think tank.
“But all of these combined are just making for a difficult moment and the Franco German relationship.”
Both countries started wholeheartedly committing to the Future Combat Air System, officially called the Système de Combat Aérien du Futur (SCAF), back in 2017 – although efforts to find a new European warplane started back in 2001.
The new jets, which are supposed to be working by 2040, are hardly jets at all but more resemble supercomputers, reported the Telegraph.
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They will carry munitions, capture pictures, radar data, and radio traffic and interpret all this information while moving at 1000 miles per hour.
One of the biggest rifts between the two countries over the project is over who to sell the jets to.
Germany has a block on selling European Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia – one of the biggest defence spenders in the world, particularly of French arms – and isn’t likely to drop it any time soon.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last month said its block on jet exports won’t end “anytime soon”.
The financial publication La Tribune warned that Scholz’s comments are a “very bad signal for future exports of the European SCAF programme”.
Momtaz explains: “Germany is more gung ho about issues of human rights.”
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The two also have disagreements about the manufacturing process: Partners pn the French side are restrictive about the involvement of additional foreign partners – wanting instead to prioritise French business.
The French company Dassault, which is leading the charge in building the systems, has particularly objected to the involvement of Belgium, which is currently trying to join the project.
A month before Belgium’s involvement was announced, Dassault boss Eric Trappier said: “I don’t see why I would give work to the Belgians today,”
Berlin takes a different view and shows itself to be comfortable with foreign involvement.
Its European Sky Shield initiative will use US and Israeli-made Patriot and Arrow Missiles.
The two also differ in their broader military and diplomatic strategy, with France believing it important to give Ukraine a credible path to NATO.
Meanwhile, leading German statesmen have warned about antagonising Russia.
However, some experts are optimistic that the two countries could iron out their issues and still hit the 2040 completion target.
“It’s a long timeline,” Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, programme director of the Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme at the SIPRI think tank told the Telegraph.
She added: “Things can change, things can evolve.”
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