French aerospace industry calls for clarity on Brexit deal
In a news conference on 12 April, Eric Trappier, Chairman of the French aerospace industry body GIFAS, said that Brexit stirred deep disquiet among French defence companies, many of whom are heavily invested in the UK. Defense News quoted Mr Trappier saying that “We are worried by Brexit, particularly French companies, because we have developed strongly with British counterparts and invested heavily in Great Britain,” He pointed in particular to those European companies with significant presence in the UK — notably MBDA, Thales and Airbus — who are nervous about the uncertainty over what the trade requirements will be once the UK has left the EU. Questions loom such as whether UK-manufactured equipment will need to be certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency, customs clearance, and the employment status of EU nationals. Moreover, there is concern whether British-based companies will be eligible to apply for financing from the European Defence Fund. Some 40 subsidiaries of GIFAS members employ 35,000 people in the UK and the new rules that govern the flow of goods, investment and staff movement across the channel will. Mr Trappier called for a transition as smooth as possible to avoid the risk to the supply chain and small and medium companies, which should be followed by clarity over defence cooperation, including the possibility of a defence treaty between the EU and the UK after Brexit.
Mr Trappier also commented on the lack of progress on the Anglo-French project for a Future Air Combat Air System Demonstration Program. He said that both French and British industry partners had been left disappointed following the Anglo-French summit in January that the two governments were not in a position to launch a programme. Mr Trappier attributed this to ‘mainly British reasons’ – a combination of budgetary constraints and Brexit concerns. Mr Trappier said that the official joint statement which came out of the summit had been ‘light’ and showed little progress from where the companies were five or six years ago.
More detail expected on Franco-German next-generation combat jet programme
Defense News reported this week that France and Germany will use the occasion of the Berlin Air Show later this month to announce further details on their plans for a joint combat jet programme to succeed both the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon. A common requirements document would be jointly signed by both nations in order that industry can begin to work on technical specifications. Airbus, Dassault, Thales, MBDA and Safran are among the companies to be involved. The ambition is for the new capability to be in service by 2040. The proposal was first announced in July last year, which stated that the programme would initially be led by Germany and France, and later opened to other European states. French minister Florence Parly said that discussions were “active” between the two countries toward a first step in an eventual program. The goal at this point, she said, is to bring together activities on the political and industrial level. The Minister said that the programme would run in parallel to the future aircraft program that is ongoing with the UK, but that they would remain separate. In February, the MOD launched its own National Combat Air Strategy, which will consider the requirements of the RAF beyond Typhoon and what decisions are needed, and when, in order to ensure that this requirement can be fulfilled. It is expected to be finalised by the end of the year. Opportunities for UK participation in a European programme will no doubt be considered as part of this.
Separately, it was also reported this week that Germany and France will sign a letter of intent a the Berlin Air Show to develop a new maritime patrol aircraft. The German-French Defence and Security Council decided in July last year that they would seek a European solution to renewing their respective maritime intelligence capabilities. The next stage will see both nations coordinate their capability requirements to define a possible common model. The UK decided in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review that it would purchase nine Boeing P-8A maritime patrol aircraft from the US. The first is due to enter service in 2019.
GKN/MELROSE: Asked what recent representations the Government has received from the F-35 Joint Program Office on the proposed takeover of GKN by Melrose, Defence Procurement Minister, Guto Bebb MP, replied that the MOD was contacted was made in January 2018. However, he declined to provide further details.