The Future Air Combat System (SCAF) project led by France, Germany and Spain comes up against rivalries between industrialists and the divergent interests of states.
Classic dramatization or real risk of failure? The Future Air Combat System (SCAF) project led by France, Germany and Spain is bogged down in rivalries between industrialists and the divergent interests of states. According to members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the French Senate, who interviewed the leaders of Dassault Aviation and Airbus, this new generation fighter plane project “approaching the stall point “.
The scenario is classic: several large European states are launching a joint military program, described as essential for European strategic autonomy. But when task sharing occurs, it gets stuck. The story of the European defense industry is punctuated by aborted joint projects, which have resulted today in three fighters and four competing battle tanks. SCAF already has a European rival, Tempest, developed by Great Britain, Italy and Sweden.
Estimated at a cost of 50 to 80 billion, this future combat aircraft program, which will fit into a connected system including drones, aims to replace Rafale and Eurofighter aircraft by 2040. For this, Paris, Berlin and Madrid hope to validate before the German elections in September industrial study contracts to be carried out in 2026 the creation of a demonstrator. Without this, we will have to deal with a new German coalition, which could consider this project to be less of a priority.
“Germany wants to revisit issues of industrial property, task-sharing and leadership-sharing.”
But the negotiations between Dassault, industrial prime contractor for the aircraft, and Airbus are stumbling, in particular on the distribution of responsibility for the different work packages. Chancellor Angela Merkel herself has said she wants to review “questions of industrial property, division of labor and sharing of leadership”. What pointed the CEO of Dassault, Eric Trappier, who recalled that the France had all the skills to develop this aircraft on its own. A bluff that not many people believe, given the height of the investments. Some believe that we have to go back to the basic philosophy: French leadership on SCAF and a German directorate for cooperation projects on future tanks combat (MGCS) and drones (Eurodrone).
Belgium as a passive spectator
Belgium had expressed its wish to join the program, but the decision to buy American F-35s seems to stand in the way, even if the current government has never officially issued a request to do so. A sum of 369 million had been planned by the executive in 2018 to include Belgium in European projects.