Airbus, Dassault reach deal on FCAS jet programme

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By Tassilo Hummel and Christina Amann

PARIS (Reuters) -Airbus, Dassault and other partners have reached an agreement on launching the next phase of a new generation of European fighter jets, the two companies said on Thursday, settling a long-running dispute between the pair.

The Future Combat Air System (FCAS), first announced in 2017 by French President Emmanuel Macron and then German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is designed to replace the Eurofighter and Dassault's Rafale with a combination of manned and unmanned aircraft from 2040.

The industrial partners in the aircraft programme are Airbus on behalf of Germany, France’s Dassault and Indra of Spain but the project had been stuck in a stalemate between Airbus and Dassault.

"This overall industrial agreement represents a big step forward for this European defence flagship programme," Mike Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said in a statement.

"This is paving the way to a final contract signature between nations and industry partners, once relevant processes have been concluded in the respective customer nations. We are optimistic that this can be accomplished in the very near future."

Earlier, the head of Dassault told Le Figaro newspaper the company had reached an agreement with Airbus over FCAS.

"Today, yes, it is done. We have an agreement with Airbus," Eric Trappier, chief executive of Dassault Aviation which is spearheading the fighter jet programme, was quoted as saying.

"We have obtained all the necessary guarantees to open the next phase which is still, I am reminding you, a phase of preliminary studies," Trappier said.

The project - originally meant to unify Europeans after the migration crisis and Britain's decision to leave the European Union - has created tension as France and Germany struggled more than a year to agree the next stage of FCAS' development.

Some sources blamed Dassault, which had refused to budge in a long-running row over intellectual property rights.

Other sources blamed Airbus for pushing for a bigger workshare, insisting it should be given "equal footing" with Dassault.

French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu welcomed Thursday's deal.

"This project is a concrete illustration of the cooperation we are conducting at European level on defence and armaments, in which France plays a central role," he tweeted.

(Reporting by Blandine Henault, Christina Amann, writing by Tassilo Hummel, editing by GV De Clercq, Ingrid Melander and David Gregorio)


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