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European fighter jet prototype to fly by 2027

May 17, 2021

With billions of euros on the line, Spain, France and Germany agreed on the next stage of building a new European fighter jet. An early prototype is expected to take flight in 2027.

A full-scale model of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) presented at an air show in Paris
While the new platform is still in its early stages, the creators presented this full-scale concept model in 2019Image: Getty Images/AFP/E. Piermont

Following weeks of intense talks, France, Spain and Germany pledged to push on with the next stage of developing the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) platform.  The project includes building a next-generation fighter jet and drones, as well as creating a communications network dubbed the "combat cloud" with artificial intelligence capabilities.

The three nations previously clashed over intellectual property and splitting the workload between the NATO allies.

"France, Germany and Spain are building one of the most important tools for their sovereignty and that of Europe in the 21st century," French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly tweeted.

The FCAS project is Europe's biggest defense program, with the new fighter jet expected to replace France's Rafales and German and Spanish Eurofighters by 2040. The total cost is expected to surpass €100 billion ($121.4 billion).

A computer graphic by Airbus illustrating connections between bombers, drones, and fighting jets
The 'combat cloud' would boost communication between various aircraft during battleImage: Airbus

On Monday, the three countries also pledged to provide a total of €3.5 billion ($4.3 billion) to fund the project until 2024. Each country will be providing one third of the money.

German government running out of time

The pressure to close the deal was especially high in Germany, where the government hopes to push the funding through the parliament before the elections in September.

Germany's Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer praised the breakthrough on Twitter.

"With the fighter jet of the future we are strengthening the capabilities, industry and technology in Europe," she said.

Prototype to fly in 2027

The jet is being developed by France's Dassault Aviation and the European plane-making giant Airbus. On Monday, France's Florence Parly said that an early demonstrator prototype would take to the skies in 2027 — a year later than announced previously.

Additionally, the prototype will be powered by a Rafale engine, giving the producers more time to develop a new engine for the aircraft.

dj/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)