Spain has joined the existing Franco-German effort to develop a future combat air system (FCAS), which is scheduled to enter service by 2040.

During a NATO meeting in Brussels on 14 February, Spain's minister of defence, Margarita Robles, signed a letter of intent with her respective French and German counterparts, Florence Parly and Ursula von der Leyen, covering the country's integration into the programme.

Madrid says that the country is joining the initiative on "equal terms with France and Germany" and that the project will give Spain "leadership visibility" within European security and defence policies.

Noting that Spain is already a partner in the Eurofighter programme – together with Germany, Italy and the UK – the defence ministry says the commitment will provide "quality opportunities to the Spanish defence industry" and enable the country to maintain a "solid base" of aerospace activities.

The FCAS programme will comprise development of a manned fighter jet and unmanned aircraft, which can be operated together.

Aircraft developed under the programme will replace the Eurofighters operated by Germany and Spain, as well as France's Dassault Rafale fighters.

Airbus Defence & Space – which has extensive activities in Spain – and Dassault have been selected as prime contractors for FCAS programme, while Safran Aircraft Engines and MTU Aero Engines have joined forces to build the aircraft's powerplants.

Spanish manufacturer ITP is a shareholder in the Eurojet consortium that builds the EJ200 engine for the Eurofighter – as is the company's parent, Rolls-Royce.

However, R-R has been selected as propulsion partner for the UK's Tempest next-generation fighter programme.