• Toby Irwin

Prospects for European FCAS

In a recent press release from Dassault Aviation notes the need for "collective momentum" in order to maintain and build on European defence. This is symbolised by the ongoing development of the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which began in 2017. The Franco-German collaboration has now welcomed Spain into the development programme. The involved parties now include France's Dassault Aviation, European Airbus and Spain's Indra Sistemas.

Projects of this magnitude, however, often fail and lose government funding. While the defence and aerospace industry's respective parties are eager for progress, as they stated "ready, motivated and united to make this programme a success", it hinges on continued political motivations to continue for the next few decades.

Indeed, while this initiative is being described as Europe's most strategic defence programme, it is feasible that the interested states will succumb to international competition. While it seems unlikely that designs from Asia or Russia would become preferred procurement options, it is entirely possible that the UK-Italian joint Tempest project succeeds in undercutting the market. The same is the case for prospective US ventures. After all, Spain's current fleet is composed of American F-18s.

European procurement plans will be contested in the late 2030s and 2040s as both Tempest and FCAS enter (or are scheduled to enter) the market. This will likely shape up to be the primary arms export battleground. Further, with Sweden recently announcing its involvement in Tempest, this truly does seem to be a niche area of the marketplace which will divide Europe. However, since the majority of export orders come from outside Europe (principally the Middle East and Asia), what might prove more important in determining future orders is the continued political/strategic partnerships between the respective exporting coalitions and the prospective recipients.


https://www.airbus.com/defence/fcas.html Cover Photo Courtesy of Airbus.com

At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a third year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK foreign policy and the defence/aerospace industry.