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Franco-German FCAS deal points to Dassault leadership

France will take the lead role in the planned development of a joint Future Combat Air System (FCAS) with Germany.

The German defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, and her French counterpart, Florence Parly, signed a declaration of intent on 19 June to provide formal "guide rails" for the fighter project and a parallel effort to jointly develop a future tank dubbed Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), the ministry of defence says.

Under the memorandum, an FCAS project team – with members from the two countries – will be established in France to put in place "requirements for a joint concept study" by year-end, Berlin says.

It notes that FCAS represents "Europe’s most important future defence project" in terms of effort and technology, and that it will be open to additional partners on the basis of a "strong Franco-German foundation".

The wording of the accord seems to suggest that Dassault will take a lead role in the next-generation fighter programme as the majority of Airbus Defence & Space's operations are located in Germany.

The effort is designed to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale fighters currently operated by Germany and France, respectively.

At the ILA air show in Berlin in April, Dassault and Airbus Defence & Space sealed an agreement to jointly develop and produce the next-generation aircraft, which, the defence ministry says, is scheduled to "seamlessly" replace the Eurofighter programme from 2040.

While the FCAS programme will comprise both manned and unmanned aircraft that can be operated in conjunction, the "unmanned systems will decisively shape the entire project's capabilities to ensure its survivability and assertiveness", the German defence ministry says.

Germany will assume a lead role in the MGCS programme, which will provide a replacement for the country's Leopard 2 tank from around 2035. The German defence ministry notes the responsibilities for that programme also cover industrial leadership.

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