This week Britain launched a new fighter jet project at the Farnborough Airshow. It showed off Britain’s air defence ambitions. But to industry executives from Europe, it further highlighted the deepening faultlines in European Defence cooperation. Apart from the British program, there is also a rival Franco-German project started over a year ago. It is still unfunded but already established.
France had wanted a Franco-British program that broadly represented Europe initially. But it decided to lobby Germany to partner in a rival programme after talks with Britain hit a brickwall over BREXIT uncertainties.
These uncertainties are beginning to eat into the patience of industry executives.
They warn that if divisions and delays continue, Europe could lose out big time to the US or even China.
They also point out that rival European projects could be too expensive for individual European countries and call for more collaboration to share costs.
“The only way to survive and be economically viable … is to cooperate and do programs jointly,” Leonardo’s chief strategy officer, Giovanni Soccodato told Reuters in a recent interview.
“It’s a schizophrenic approach to be pushing for European defense cooperation, but not wanting to give up national capabilities.”
Costs Costs Costs
They may have a point: It cost the United States $50 billion to develop the F-35. Interestingly, the British government has only been able to allocate 2 billion pounds to its warplane project and is still seeking international partners to pump in more funds.
Britain’s coming exit from the EU threatens to limit Europe’s capability to easily pool resources for Euro-wide projects.