FRENCH AIR FORCE chief Gen. Jean-Philippe Douin has warned that France may have to purchase the Lockheed C-130J and ditch the acquisition of the European Future Large Aircraft (FLA) unless his budget gets a major boost.

Douin is concerned about whether the Government will have funding available for the Dassault Rafale combat aircraft as well as the FLA, known as the ATF (Avion Transport Futur) in France.

If extra money is not forthcoming to pay for fighter and transport programmes, says Douin, " may be necessary to buy C-130 transports for Fr20 billion [$3.8 billion] instead of ATFs for Fr40 billion".

Douin is also disturbed that the air force is the only one of the three military services, which will not receive an increase in funding during the period up to the end of the century. He asks: "How can we not be worried about the future of the air force after the turn of the century, when it is supposed to finance the Rafale as well as the ATF?"

Douin had strongly supported the FLA programme (Flight International, 14-21 December 1994), saying that he would do "...everything in my power to safeguard both these vital programmes".

The new Douin statement, while seen primarily as "politicking", is the second time in six weeks that a senior French aerospace official has broken ranks on the FLA project. Late in 1994, Snecma boss Bernard Dufour, demanded that plans to power the aircraft with turbo-props should be scrapped and that, turbofans should be used instead.

He also threw doubt on planned future development of the Rafale.

While Douin is concerned over costs, political sources in Bonn and London, are warning of a potential clash between Germany and the UK, over work-share on the FLA and in particular, the design of the wing.

Bonn sources indicate that Daimler Benz Aerospace still has aspirations to take on the wing design, although this is being resisted by British Aerospace.

UK Minister for Defence Procurement Roger Freeman and his German counterpart, Jorg Schonbohm, are to meet in Germany on 5-6 February, to discuss the Eurofighter. UK officials suggest that the FLA "...may, however, come up in the margins".

Source: Flight International