World events can be so confusing. One day, French President Emmanuel Macron is engaging in high-profile – and surprisingly tactile – meetings with his US counterpart Donald Trump, and the very next, the defence industry champions of Berlin and Paris have gone all protectionist.

In related and potentially highly significant moves, Airbus Defence & Space and Dassault have pledged to work hand-in-hand on a future fighter to succeed their respective Eurofighter and Rafale products, and on an advanced unmanned surveillance asset to end reliance on US and Israeli designs.

That Europe’s leading nations should want to ensure sovereign capability in the combat aircraft sector is, of course, not surprising. After all, the current ­frontline types of France and Germany are living proof of their determination to develop their own fighters – but only after failing to agree on common requirements to do so together.

Will the companies and governments involved be able to stay in formation this time? If so, they will field a broad-ranging future combat air system from around 2035. If not – and the disarray of Anglo-French plans after the UK’s Brexit decision shows how fast things can change – Lockheed Martin is already waiting in the wings with the offer of its F-35 as a replacement for Germany’s Panavia Tornados. No pressure.

Source: Flight International