The load is heavy. It comes from Eric Trappier, the CEO of Dassault Aviation who was heard this Wednesday before French senators on the military programming bill. At the heart of the debates, there was in particular the future fighter plane that the company would have to (co)develop. We are talking about sixth-generation aircraft – stealth devices that will include a drone component and partly managed by artificial intelligence – which will replace the newest aircraft currently, such as the F35 (fifth generation), Rafales and other Eurofighters. If these planes should take off only at best in 2035, or even in 2040, many countries are already positioning themselves on the various development programs hoping, in particular, for the most possible economic benefits.
Three major projects currently exist. The Americans have their own program. The Scaf (for air combat system of the future) is developed by France, Germany and Spain. Finally, the Tempest is by the United Kingdom, Italy and Sweden, to which Japan has been added. If Belgium has not yet made a choice, a decision should be taken soon. Some Belgian manufacturers (still) dream of economic benefits comparable to those generated by the “contract of the century” of the 1970s, when our country was part of the development of the American F16.
”I hear about the Belgians…”
But the American door is, this time, closed. At least for the moment. The United States has chosen to go it alone – for now at least – on its sixth-generation aircraft project. So there remains Europe. And if we are to believe the boss of Dassault Aviation, Belgium is not really welcome in the Franco-German-Spanish project.
The F-35 will cost (at least) 30,000 euros per flight hour
Indeed, Eric Trappier still does not seem to have digested the choice of Belgium for the American F35, in order to replace its F16, to the detriment in particular of the Dassault Rafale. At the time, in 2018, the French manufacturer had spoken “a bad signal for the construction of European defence”. Mr. Trappier remained on the same line this Wednesday against French elected officials. “I hear about the Belgians, it’s very good. But then I recommend creating an F35 club within the Scaf”he quips. Put more F35 countries in the Scaf, I do not see the subject. But that’s my side a bit restrictive”, says the CEO. “Why would I make room in my factory, in my design office for people who have chosen the F35? To companies that I have seen act behind their government to buy F35?”
“I hear it said: we could give work to Belgian companies right away… No. If it is imposed on me, I will fight. I don’t see why I would give work to Belgians today.
The question of economic benefits is also on the table in the event of the integration of new countries into the Scaf program, according to Mr. Trappier. “The French are only one to a third. Two-thirds have already gone to the other side (in Spain and Germany, Editor’s note). By dint of cutting back, we will end up cutting back the useful skills”. Before adding:So I’m going to remove employment from France to put it in countries that have made the American choice. No one is fooled. It is not because there is technological cooperation in Europe that tomorrow some will not buy American. […]” I hear people saying: we could give work to Belgian companies right away… No. Sif it is imposed on me, I will fight. I don’t see why I would give work to the Belgians today”.
According to him, adding countries to Scaf is “complicated”. “We must already do what we have planned for three (France, Germany and Spain, Editor’s note). I hope that we will do phase 2, which will allow the plane to take off. If we want to add people, the discussions will be longer”. And to conclude:But it is the state that decides. We will discuss it on D-Day”. With or without the Belgians around the table?
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