Das­sault & Air­bus a For­mi­da­ble Part­ner­ship

Although Das­sault Avi­a­tion and Air­bus have his­tor­i­cally been ri­vals, un­der the newly emerg­ing po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion, they have de­cided to jointly em­bark on a ma­jor ven­ture of global sig­nif­i­cance

SP's Aviation - - Table of Contents - By AIR MAR­SHAL B.K. PANDEY (RETD)

Early this year, the French aero­space ma­jor Das­sault Avi­a­tion and the Euro­pean con­glom­er­ate Air­bus, made pub­lic their de­ci­sion to en­ter into a part­ner­ship to jointly de­sign, de­velop and pro­duce the next gen­er­a­tion com­bat air­craft - also de­scribed as Europe’s Fu­ture Com­bat Air Sys­tem (FCAS). This plat­form which is planned to be su­pe­rior to the ex­ist­ing fifth-gen­er­a­tion com­bat air­craft such as the F-35 joint strike fighter from Lock­heed Martin Cor­po­ra­tion of the United States (US), is in­tended to ini­tially com­ple­ment and ul­ti­mately re­place by the end of a decade and a half from now, the ex­ist­ing fleet of the fourth-gen­er­a­tion Eurofighter Typhoon pro­duced by a Euro­pean con­sor­tium of Air­bus, BAE Sys­tems and Leonardo as also the Rafale pro­duced by Das­sault Avi­a­tion of France. Ini­tially a part­ner in the Eurofighter Typhoon project, France had pulled out on ac­count of se­ri­ous dif­fer­ences with the other part­ners over the de­sign of the air­craft and went ahead to de­velop the Rafale, a twin-en­gine, multi-role com­bat air­craft as a com­peti­tor to the Euro­pean plat­form. Dialogue on the FCAS be­gan some time ago and last year, the de­ci­sion to go ahead with the project was taken in a meet­ing be­tween Em­manuel Macron, Pres­i­dent of France and An­gela Merkel, Chan­cel­lor of Ger­many. The an­nounce­ment on April 25, 2018, of the agree­ment be­tween Das­sault Avi­a­tion and Air­bus, is the first step to­wards that goal.

Although Das­sault Avi­a­tion and Air­bus have his­tor­i­cally been ri­vals, un­der the newly emerg­ing po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion, they have now de­cided to join hands to em­bark on a ma­jor ven­ture of global sig­nif­i­cance. One pri­mary ob­jec­tive that has in­spired this part­ner­ship is to chal­lenge the dom­i­nant po­si­tion of the US in the do­main of the global aero­space in­dus­try and es­pe­cially in the pro­duc­tion of com­bat plat­forms. An­other ob­jec­tive of the al­liance ap­pears to be an ef­fort to en­sure Euro­pean sovereignty, in­dus­trial au­ton­omy and tech­no­log­i­cal lead­er­ship in the regime of mil­i­tary aero­space in­dus­try so that Euro­pean na­tions do not have to pur­chase com­bat air­craft from the US.

The two aero­space gi­ants Air­bus and Das­sault Avi­a­tion who are en­dowed with the right level of ex­per­tise and pos­sess wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in the pro­duc­tion of mil­i­tary avi­a­tion plat­forms, have al­ready been co­op­er­at­ing suc­cess­fully in projects in Europe re­lated to the de­vel­op­ment of un­manned aerial sys­tems. This new col­lab­o­ra­tion will also help strengthen ties be­tween France and Ger­many es­pe­cially in the con­text of the de­ci­sion by Bri­tain to exit the Euro­pean Union. For Brit- ish com­pa­nies such as BAE Sys­tems that has been a ma­jor part­ner in the Eurofighter Typhoon project, Brexit may have im­pli­ca­tions as the Bri­tish aero­space firm could be ex­cluded from the FCAS project. BAE Sys­tems is also col­lab­o­rat­ing with Das­sault Avi­a­tion in the de­vel­op­ment of an un­manned com­bat air­craft. Hope­fully, a broader po­lit­i­cal per­spec­tive re­lated to the se­cu­rity con­cerns of the Euro­pean re­gion as a whole, may help neu­tralise the shadow of Brexit and re­move bar­ri­ers be­tween the UK and the Franco-Ger­man col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort to pave the way for the in­clu­sion of BAE Sys­tems in the FCAS project. This step will un­doubt­edly be to the ben­e­fit of both the par­ties con­cerned.


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