Outspoken Dassault Aviation chief executive Eric Trappier says he remains sanguine about the possible participation of additional nations in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme currently being developed for France, Germany and Spain.

Trappier has in the past been critical of the admission of more countries to the mix, fearing dilution of Dassault’s workshare, notably on the manned New Generation Fighter (NGF) where it is prime contractor.

FCAS NGF-c-Airbus

Source: Airbus Defence & Space

Dassault is prime contractor on the New Generation Fighter

The recent appointment of Belgium as an observer to the programme – a decision that opens a path to full membership – threatened to upset the delicate balance within FCAS. Trappier had in 2023 fiercely opposed the move due to Brussels’ selection of the Lockheed Martin F-35 over a competing offer of the Dassault Rafale.

But Trappier now seems relaxed about more countries joining the project. “As far as I’m concerned, why not?” he said, speaking to FlightGlobal at the EBACE business aviation show in Geneva, where Dassault is exhibiting.

Belgium’s position as an observer will not alter the workshare in the ongoing Phase 1B effort to design the NGF demonstrator, points out Trappier, a process which already also involves Airbus Defence & Space, representing both Germany and Spain.

“It is not going to change everything today. There is room available for the next step which is a real development programme – in that case, why not?”

Dassault’s relationship with Airbus Defence & Space had also previously shown signs of strain, particularly in the run up to the signature of the Phase 1B contracts, again due to concerns around workshare and project leadership.

However, Trappier says the work with its partner is “going well” as they strive to complete the definition phase in 2025.

A future Phase 2 contract covering the manufacture of a demonstrator is due to be signed in early 2026, paving the way for a first flight before the end of the decade.

Patmar 10X-c-DGA

Source: Dassault Aviation

Falcon 10X-derived MPA would replace elderly Atlantique 2 fleet

Meanwhile, Dassault is continuing design activities that could ultimately see a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) based on its Falcon 10X business jet developed for the French navy as a replacement for the service’s elderly Atlantique 2 fleet.

Dassault has been contracted by France’s DGA military procurement agency for the work, where it faces competition from Airbus and an A320neo-derived design. Both companies are to submit their proposals this year.

Trappier says the project is “progressing well” and has been unaffected by a delay to the service entry of the Falcon 10X, which has slipped to 2027.

Nonetheless, he is hopeful that the selection process will not be lengthy. “It is important for us to get a quick decision from the French government in order for us to integrate at this stage any modifications needed for the MPA.”

Areas of focus are the electrical system, to ensure sufficient power for the maritime radar and other sensors, and the ability to carry and release armaments such as torpedoes. However, Trappier does not think the Falcon 10X’s composite wing will need strengthening to permit the addition of weapon stations.

“It is a big job,” he says. “But our advantage is that we have been working on MPAs since 1956 – we have good experience.”