The defense ministers of Germany and France have inked new agreements for the joint development of a new combat aircraft and a next-generation tank, key programs that could shape the European defense landscape for decades to come.
Ursula von der Leyen and Florence Parly signed the letters of intent on the sidelines of a bilateral Cabinet meeting in Berlin on Tuesday. The documents are meant to provide the necessary guidance to set up a program of record for the Future Combat Air System and the Main Ground Combat System.
A defense spokesman in Berlin told Defense News the agreement calls for the examination of potential management structures, for example through OCCAR, a European collective for joint weapons acquisition and management. The core members of OCCAR include France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Belgium, though other nations can partake in individual projects.
According to a German Defence Ministry statement, the signed documents establish the two governments’ “left and right boundaries” for the programs.
Led by France, the Future Combat Air System aims to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon in Germany and the Rafale aircraft in France. The Main Ground Combat System, helmed by Berlin, will succeed the German Leopard 2 tanks ― used widely in Europe and beyond ― and the French Leclerc.
The new aircraft are envisioned to hit the skies by 2040, while the the new tanks are pegged to roll in the mid-2030s. Connected to the tank effort is also an artillery replacement plan, named Common Indirect Fire System.
While both projects initially are exclusively German and French, partner countries will have an opportunity to join once a “strong foundation” is established by the two lead nations, the German Defence Ministry said.