Spain has signed a framework agreement with the governments of France and Germany to join them in their initiative to build the sixth-generation Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

The agreement was signed by the defence ministers of the three European nations in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron at the Paris Air Show.

France and Germany announced in 2017 that they would jointly build the new FCAS. The governments signed the ‘High Level Common Operational Requirements Document’ last year.

The FCAS will include next-generation fighter (NGF) and unmanned systems such as remote carriers (RCs) that will fly alongside the manned fighter jets and cruise missiles.

To be built by Dassault Aviation and Airbus, the NGF is being designed to eventually replace France’s existing Rafale combat aircraft and Germany’s Eurofighters from 2040.

In February, the Dassault and Airbus team was contracted to undertake a joint concept study (JCS) for the next-generation combat jet.

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The companies unveiled the first concept models of the NGF and RCs on the opening day of the Paris Air Show 2019.

Dassault and Airbus have delivered a joint industrial agreement to the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) and the German Ministry of Defence for the first demonstrator phase of the FCAS programme.

The initial demonstrator phase will cover the core components of the system, namely the NGF, RCs and an Air Combat Cloud. Under the proposal, the companies announced their commitment to fly the demonstrators for these components by 2026.

“The FCAS will include next-generation fighter and unmanned systems such as remote carriers that will fly alongside the manned fighter jets.”

Dassault noted that a contract for the first demonstrator phase is expected by the fourth quarter of this year. This phase will run from 2019 to mid-2021.

Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Eric Trappier said: “The progress we have achieved on the FCAS programme in recent months is remarkable. It will shape Europe’s most decisive military air combat programme for the decades to come and turn out a strong move in constructing Europe’s sovereignty.”

The teaming agreements also include MBDA Systems and Thales, and focus on the need for handling intellectual property rights in a transparent manner.

The proposed combat jet’s engine will be developed by Safran and MTU Aero Engines.

France and Germany plan to jointly invest an initial sum of $4.5bn in the FCAS project, Reuters reported. As the programme leader, the French Government will contribute $2.8bn.