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Airbus sees no sign of Germany quitting fighter jet project

Published 08/11/2023, 18:45
Updated 08/11/2023, 20:21
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Airbus is pictured outside the Airbus facility in Saint-Nazaire, France, November 7, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said on Wednesday he saw no evidence of Germany preparing to abandon plans to develop a new combat jet with France and Spain.

Britain's Times newspaper reported last week that Berlin was considering leaving the project known as SCAF in France and elsewhere as FCAS to join a rival system involving Britain, Italy and Japan following disputes over design and financing.

Airbus is Germany's industrial partner in the plan to build an interconnected system of fighters and drones by 2040 and has frequently been seen at odds with French partner Dassault Aviation over the early phases of the programme.

Asked about the report, Faury told reporters he saw no signs of Germany abandoning FCAS/SCAF, adding "on the ground we see the exact opposite."

However, speaking after announcing quarterly earnings, he strongly criticised Germany over a decision to block exports of current-generation Eurofighter jets to Saudi Arabia.

"It's damaging for the Eurofighter, but it's also damaging for the reputation of Germany as an export country," Faury said.

"That's creating a very difficult situation with the partner countries of the Eurofighter". The fighter entered service in 2003 and is built by Germany, Italy, Britain and Spain.

France and Germany have long been at odds on defence exports, with Berlin traditionally taking a more cautious stance.

Berlin halted arms sales to Saudi Arabia following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has so far pushed back against pressure to unblock delivery of Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia. His coalition partner, the Greens, firmly opposes the move, pointing to human rights concerns and Saudi Arabia's role in the Yemen war.

Faury said he perceived a "positive trend" towards resolving the impasse but that "it is not going at the pace we need".

"We are calling for clear and visible decisions on that topic," he added.

Saudi Arabia is meanwhile in talks with France about a potential order for dozens of Rafale jets, people familiar with the matter have said, as reported last month by France's La Tribune.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Airbus is pictured outside the Airbus facility in Saint-Nazaire, France, November 7, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

The German government did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on fighter jets.

Last week, a government spokesperson said nothing had changed in its position after Scholz said in a speech in September that Berlin was committed to the flagship FCAS/SCAF project and the further development of Eurofighter.

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