Speaking at a pre-Farnborough Airshow press conference, Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence & Space (DS), said any programme for a sixth-generation fighter had to be a full European solution. Earlier in the briefing, Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus, said the UK could have a key position in a future European fighter jet programme even after BREXIT, rather than launch its own combat air project with other partners. According to Mr. Enders, other partners, such as Britain and Spain could join at a later stage. However, he said that discussions on the UK’s participation in a Franco-German project were being hindered by tensions surrounding BREXIT.
In April, Airbus and Dassault Aviation were named the lead industrial partners on a future European fighter jet programme, which aims to begin an initial study phase by the end of the year. This, of course, raised concerns in the UK that it could be left out of the crucial planning and design phase, which dictates who will have a claim over intellectual property vital to exports.
Mr. Hoke explained that the current status quo of having numerous European platforms competing; namely Dassault RAFALE, Eurofighter TYPHOON and Saab GRIPEN; is not sustainable. This would, “bring Europe to the second league – we will not compete if we fragment the market further,” he said, also stating the UK is a key partner for the future, but will need to, “join at a later stage.”
According to the Airbus DS CEO it is important that the Franco-German project will define its requirements prior to bringing other partners on board, to avoid the complexity that has slowed down other multinational defence programmes, such as the TYPHOON and A400M.