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Some leaders of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program, produced in a three-nation partnership, plan to initiate the next phase of work, which will lead to a range of new weapons and systems for France, Germany and Spain within a year beyond the planned date.

Germany and Spain announced on 18th November that they had reached a political agreement to move on to the next phase of work, known as Phase 1B, after a long pause. But the silence from third-party France left them confused as to what stage the program was at.

In the same statement, the Spanish and German defence ministries said: “The political agreement for FCAS is a big step forward and an important sign of the excellent cooperation between France, Germany and Spain – especially during this period. It strengthens Europe’s military capabilities, our industry and the wider Europe. It provides important technical information for the industry.”

In addition, Airbus Defence and Space, which led the participation of German industry in the program, and Indra, which represents Spain, also released the same statements praising progress on 18th November. “We can confirm that the negotiations between industry and governments for the next phase of FCAS have been concluded, which is a big step forward for this European flagship defence programme” the two companies said, adding that the main contract between the three countries has not yet been signed, “Now, a number of official steps need to be taken in the respective countries so that the contract can be signed quickly” expressed in their words.

Meanwhile, France’s industry leader Dassault Aviation has not made any official statements about the progress of the program, reflecting its country’s own lack of approval. Dassault CEO Eric Trappier confirmed on Monday that an industry contract between Dassault and Airbus has not yet been signed. Speaking to France’s RTL Radio, Trappier described Friday’s statement as a “pseudo-political announcement” stemming from possible leaks about Germany’s approvals for the project. When asked if an industry contract will be signed this week, Trappier simply replied, “We’ll see.”

Noting that the program is financed equally by the three countries, Spain said that in its 2023 budget, it has allocated approximately €525.7 million ($540 million) for FCAS and a total of €2.5 billion ($2.57 billion) for the entire program. French officials had previously told reporters that Phase 1B would cost around €3.5 billion ($3.6 billion) for work to be completed between 2021 and 2024, which would be split into three. France has allocated €287.2 million in the 2022 defence budget for ongoing studies and research on FCAS, but has not disclosed how much funding will be included in the 2023 budget announced last September.

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