Defense: Eurodrone, SCAF, C130J … how France and Germany will cooperate

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Christophe Morin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While France and Germany want to cooperate in defense, Paris and Berlin shine the spotlight on their partnership projects. The French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly and her German counterpart Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer are expected today at the French air base of Evreux (north-west), for the laying of the first stone of the building intended to accommodate a transport squadron tactics integrating French and German pilots, mechanics and C130J planes. A project presented by Paris as a concrete advance in defense Europe, one of French President Emmanuel Macron’s battle horses.

France has already received its 4 C130Js. Germany will receive delivery of 6 aircraft between 2021 and 2024. Once its full capacity has been reached, in 2024, this “first joint Franco-German operational unit” will have 10 aircraft and 260 people, one explains to the French ministry of Armies, which boasts “an unprecedented degree of integration at European level”. The pilot could be French on a German plane or vice versa. The squadron commander will be French, seconded by a German. The unit may be called upon to participate in external operations, with different rules of engagement for each country. “One can imagine that Germany authorizes the deployment of mechanics in the Sahel but that a particularly dangerous intervention is carried out only by French pilots”, explains a French source.

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SCAF et Eurodrone

Florence Parly and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer will then go to the German Airbus site in Manching, Bavaria (south), to attend presentations on the future Franco-German combat air system (SCAF) and the European drone project. Eurodrone. The SCAF should replace the Rafale and Eurofighter fighter jets within the next twenty years. After months of Franco-German politico-industrial rivalries, the defense ministers of the two countries signed a research and technology contract of 150 million euros in February. Spain joined the project.

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Next step: complete a contract between the three partner countries to develop a flight demonstrator by 2026 (note: a demonstrator is a kind of pre-prototype intended to validate the feasibility of a concept), for a budget of 5 billion euros. Paris and Berlin then hope to obtain the green light from the German parliament in the spring of 2021. “The whole point is to go fast enough to launch a large slice of the project in 2021 in order to make it irreversible”, commented on the cabinet by Florence Parly.

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The European drone project will also be discussed during this ministerial visit. France is confident in the conclusion “before the end of the year” of an agreement on the development and production of the future Eurodrone, following tough negotiations on the cost of the program, the Ministry of the Armed Forces said on Wednesday. Launched in 2015, this MALE (Medium altitude, long endurance) drone project, which brings together France, Germany, Italy and Spain, aims to free itself from dependence on Reaper drones Americans, but discussions have stalled for many months. States have set a budget target of 7.1 billion euros for the development and acquisition of 63 drones, or 21 systems. But “we are very close” to this budget target, we confided in the minister’s office.

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