Alan George/PARIS

EADS (European Aero-nautic Defence and Space) and Dassault, which it part-owns, could resolve their clash over competing fighter aircraft products by launching joint research and development projects or even a full merger. However, EADS vice presidentfor strategic co-ordination, Louis Gergorin, says the pair will continue to compete for sales for "at least three or four years".


Dassault produces the Rafale, a competitor with the Eurofighter, in which EADS has a 43% stake inherited from two of its three constituent companies, Casa and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace. That stake will become a majority holding when the formation of European Military Aircraft brings in Italy's Alenia. Yet EADS is also linked to Dassault by a 45.76% holding inherited from Aerospatiale-Matra, which has no involvement in Eurofighter.

Because it has only a minority stake in Dassault, EADS cannot act to resolve this clash - but Gergorin believes the conflict can be resolved in the medium term.

"Eurofighter and Rafale both have their own markets and it is our task to exhaust those export markets for them," he says. "When it's clear that competition has ended, it will be the appropriate time to try to merge, or to undertake a joint research and development programme for the next generation of fighters." It is understood that joint research and development would aim at convergence in future upgrade programmes for the two aircraft.

The most significant clash involves a Greek Government fighter contract, and associated investment in Hellenic Aerospace Industries, which EADS says has seen Dassault interfere in its negotiations with Athens. Gergorin cites South Korea, Singapore and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia, as other areas of "potential competition".

Gergorin says that EADS is meanwhile moving forward with consolidation in a range of areas:

• Agreement is close on the folding of Alenia Marconi Systems' missile operations into the Matra BAe Dynamics venture between EADS and BAE Systems. The working title for the new venture had been "New MBD", but "MBDA" has now been adopted and could be retained as the company's new name.

• "Intensive discussions" are continuing to incorporate Alenia Spazio and the space activities of the former Casa into the Astrium space venture, again between EADS and BAE. Agreement is anticipated early next year.

• Gergorin confirms talks are under way in avionics and radars, embracing - among others - Thomson-CSF's Sextant avionics unit and Detexis, Thomson's airborne radar company.

• A final agreement on EMAC is expected "in February or March" - although this would represent some slippage.

• Gergorin says Northrop Grumman remains EADS' "preferred transatlantic partner", although this does not preclude other US links.

• He says EADS - which owns Eurocopter - has so far held no "structural talks" with the newly formed AgustaWestland, but hopes to do so.

Source: Flight International