Safran Aircraft Engines has finalised a partnership agreement with MTU Aero Engines to jointly work on the development of the engine of the Franco-German Future Combat Air System (FCAS) next-generation combat jet.

The industrial agreement comes after Safran and MTU signed a letter of intent in February.

Safran will be responsible for engine design and integration, while MTU will handle engine services.

The agreement marks a key step in the development of the sixth-generation European ‘NGF’ fighter aircraft.

Safran will serve as the prime contractor for the fighter engine development. MTU has been named as the main partner for the initial research and technology phase.

In a joint statement, Safran Aircraft Engines CEO Olivier Andriès and MTU Aero Engines chief programme officer Michael Schreyögg said: “This agreement is a major step forward, which reflects Safran Aircraft Engines and MTU Aero Engines’ willingness to ensure a strong and effective management of the programme relying on a balanced partnership and clear accountabilities.

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“Safran and MTU are committed to supply the forces with an innovative engine architecture, which will be a key asset of their operational performances.”

The two companies will establish a joint venture by the end of 2021 to manage the development, production and after-sales support of the proposed fighter jet engine.

The FCAS project is one of the two major European fighter aircraft development programmes intended to build next-generation aircraft. The other project, involving the UK, Sweden and Italy, is called Tempest.

The NGF aircraft is expected to be operational around 2040. It is being developed with the aim of eventually replacing the Eurofighter and Rafale aircraft.