Berlin and Paris in crisis talks to bring fighter jet project back on track

·2-min read
EU leaders summit in Brussels

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany and France are making a new effort to resolve an impasse over the development of a joint fighter jet, Europe's biggest defence project that has led to tensions between Berlin and Paris, security and industry sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

At an estimated cost of more than 100 billion euros, the venture brings together Germany, France and Spain to forge a future weapons system that is seen as the heart of a deepening European defence cooperation.

Dassault Aviation , Airbus and Indra are supposed to build the aircraft, which is expected to be operational from 2040 with a view to replacing France's Rafale and Germany's Eurofighter warplanes over time.

At the beginning of February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron failed to settle the issue, thus leaving open when the next tranche of payments amounting to at least 5 billion euros in total can be released, according to insiders.

On Wednesday, envoys of the defence ministries of Germany, France, Spain as well as from Dassault, Airbus and Indra met at the DGA in Paris to try to clear the impasse, security and industry sources told Reuters. Part of the controversy revolves around intellectual property rights, and who should possess them in the end. Before moving ahead with the venture, Germany is trying to gain more concessions from France on the issue, insiders said, adding that Berlin would like to be able to use technologies co-developed with Paris for its own projects.

Disagreements run so deep that there are even considerations to build two demonstrators instead of just one, one source told Reuters.

A senior French parliamentary figure also expressed doubts about the project's viability, citing both diverging approaches and political constraints, such as Berlin’s refusal to participate in combat operations abroad.

"To be honest, it would be a lot easier for us to work with Britain because we share the same military culture," the MP told Reuters. Britain is running its own fighter jet program, Tempest, with Italy and Sweden.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin and Tangi Salaun and Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by Giles Elgood)