France and Germany on Tuesday signed two joint letters of intent, including one on the Future Air Combat System (SCAF), designating "France as a leading nation" for the project to succeed the Rafale and the Eurofighter warplanes by 2040.
According to a statement issued by the French Defence Ministry, the program will bring together "a new multi-purpose combat aircraft, adapted to contemporary air threats and exploiting the potential of artificial intelligence, network-based combat capabilities, including drones of various types."
The letter of intent calls for a study phase to be launched by the end of 2018, including architectural work and the rapid launch of demonstrators, the ministry said. This work should foreshadow, by 2025, the concepts to be retained for the future operational system.
"Developing for France and Germany a future multi-purpose combat aircraft is a major stake for the strategic autonomy of Europe," said CEO of Dassault Aviation, Eric Trappier in a statement sent to Reuters, LA Tribune reported.
The builder of the Rafale and Airbus, a Eurofighter partner, signed an initial cooperation agreement in late April to develop SCAF, leaving the door open for other European partners. The mission letter also stipulates that other partners, particularly European, can join the project.
The second letter of intent concerns developing a tank called the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), which will be led by Germany and for which a joint demonstration phase is planned by mid-2019. It provides a milestone in 2022 and the establishment by 2024 of a detailed operational need.
Paris and Berlin "share the same ambitious vision of a system based on the most innovative technologies and able to ensure operational superiority in all contexts and on all terrains," the ministry said. Fully integrated with Scorpion in France and the HEER system in Germany, MGCS will be "the terrestrial system of reference for its deployment in 2035."
Realizing the desire shown in July 2017 by Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for enhanced cooperation in defense, the letter of intent also commits the two countries on the artillery system of the future (CIFS). Finally, Paris and Berlin agreed on Tuesday the launch of the Franco-German CSO3 military satellite on Ariane 6." The Ariane 6 project, which France fully supports, is a major stake for Europe's sovereign access to space " said the ministry.