Whose SCAF will it be?

At last year’s Le Bourget aerospace show, in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, a full-scale mockup of the sixth generation fighter was unveiled, which Paris and Berlin intended to develop jointly. This project was called SCAF, which stands for “air combat system of the future”, where, in addition to the main flying element, drones and some other combat technologies must be involved. In fact, we are talking about a program that was assigned the role of the most important element of European defense, for the creation of which, as is known, from the first days of his mandate, the current owner of the Elysee Palace has been advocating. But this pivotal project runs the risk of falling apart. The Parisian newspaper le Monde writes about it.

Information that not everything is in order with the “aircraft of the future” has already slipped through the French press. Problems began to emerge from the outset, mainly due to a “lack of trust”, which led to an obsessive desire to ensure that the other side did not gain benefits, both economically and in terms of the use of new technologies developed in this project. Here is the question of the ownership of “intellectual property” for the development, and the right to manufacture certain parts.

In addition, it turns out that purely national differences in decision-making have become a serious obstacle. In France, with its vertical of power, the project is handled by the Directorate General for Armaments (DGA), which is part of the Ministry of Defense. In Germany, the Ministries of Defense, Economy and the Chancellor’s Office have to coordinate everything with the Bundestag, as well as negotiate with private business. This moment, especially the decisive role of the German parliament in the allocation of funds, which is accompanied by various conditions, irritates the French and is perceived by them as a way to establish control over them. Moreover, it is the French aviation concerns – Dassault, Airbus, a number of others – that have been appointed as the lead aircraft developers.

But the main thing here, perhaps, is the growing understanding in Paris that Berlin has different approaches to military issues in general. In the current geopolitical situation, Emmanuel Macron wants the EU to become an independent player in the future, with whom everyone would reckon, which, in his opinion, is impossible without sovereignty in the field of defense. As for Berlin, since the end of World War II, defense issues have been clearly oriented towards Washington and the North Atlantic Alliance.

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