Parly also made reference to the recent meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the western German city of Aachen, writing: "Some voices, little concerned with the truth, spoke out against the Treaty of Aachen. What we are doing today with the Franco-German fighter jet of the future is concrete, balanced, makes us stronger and prepares for the defense of Europe."
On Thursday, the relationship seemed to have suffered a minor setback when Macron announced he would not be attending next week's Munich Security Conference. Macron was scheduled to appear alongside Merkel during an event at the annual summit of high-ranking international leaders.
A spokesperson for the president told DW, "The president will devote himself to the great debate" which has seen Macron traveling the country to meet local leaders in an effort to quell domestic unrest.
Two years coming
Von der Leyen spoke of the larger scope of the defense project, announcing that France's Dassault Aviation and European manufacturer Airbus have already signed a contract to produce a concept study for a shared air combat system.
The fighter jet is one component of the Next Generation Weapons System (NGWS), with the manned jet operating in conjunction with other new weapons and swarms of drones linked to it by a so-called combat cloud.
The NGWS is itself part of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) project first announced by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in July 2017. The project is slated to include a variety of unmanned aircraft and missiles.
In January, Airbus Defense and Space and Dassault Aviation were awarded a €65 million ($74 million) two-year contract to develop the architecture and manufacturing structure of the new FCAS project. The money will be split 50/50 by the European partners.
Wednesday's contract signing was the culmination of two years of preparatory work by Airbus, Dassault, Safran and MTU. The French electronics company Thales and European missile maker MBDA will also be participants.
Ready for use by 2040
By the time it is finished, the new jet will replace the Eurofighter and Rafale aircrafts currently used by the German and French air forces. Although demonstration flights are scheduled for 2025, the plane is not expected to go into use until 2040.
Von der Leyen, who called Wednesday's announcements an "important step," said, "we have to get started now if we want to manage it." Parly said: "This contract is the very first brick in a stupendous building."
The German defense minister noted that Spain is slated to join the project in the coming months, and a French armed forces representative signaled openness to more European partners getting on board as well.
The multi-billion dollar project was made possible after Germany heeded French calls to exclude Lockheed-Martin from bidding to replace its aging Tornado jets with the US manufacturer's F-35 Joint Strike Fighters last week.