A partnership between Dassault and Airbus struggles to take off, stalling plans to develop a next generation fighter jet.

Airbus and Dassault relations have become strained

Airbus and Dassault are struggling to reach a mutual agreement on who should take leadership and intellectual rights of its Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program.

In March 2022, Dassault Aviation threatened to pull out of an alliance with Airbus. This was followed by Dassault requesting political intervention to help push the deal forward in July. Failure to resolve the issues between both companies could have severe consequences, either delaying or dissolving plans to collaborate in the production for next generation fighters.

Dassault or Airbus would find it difficult to produce new aircrafts independently, especially when competing with rival BAE Systems, Tempest – a proposed sixth-generation jet fighter aircraft that is under development in the UK.  Multi-governmental support will be important for financing the FCAS and accelerating technological development so it will be able to compete with future aircrafts produced by BAE Systems.

The partnership would secure European sovereignty and technological leadership in military aviation.

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Airbus and Dassault Aviation first struck a deal to develop and produce Europe’s next generation of fighter aircraft in 2018.  The duo formed the FCAS program which also

included Indra Sistemas and Thales Group, with the intention of replacing existing fighter aircrafts with next generation manned and unmanned planes by 2040.

The consortium of European defence companies planned on creating a more ambitious and capable fighter jet then the US militaries F-35, which is widely considered the industry’s most advanced fighter aircraft.

European countries continue to purchase the F-35 to modernize their air fleet with the most capable aircrafts. Finland became the most recent country to purchase the US aircraft, publicly placing an order for 64 F-35s planes and weapons systems in a deal worth $9.4 billion.

BAE Systems-led Tempest fighter project creates strong rivalry in Europe. 

While Dassault and Airbus continue to squabble over the details of their partnership. BAE Systems continues to lead the development of its own next generation fighter in collaboration with Italy’s Leonardo, MBDA, Rolls-Royce, and Saab.

The UK, Italy and Sweden signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on the Tempest project at the end of 2020 and continue to demonstrate strong synergy. Tempest partners are currently working on more than 60 technology demonstrations.

During July 2021, The Ministry of Defence has signed a GBP250 million ($316 million) contract with the Tempest team which will help fund the initial concept & assessment phase of development. The investment forms part of a GBP2.0 billion ($2.5 billion) from the UK government over the next four years.