In addition, the availability of potential alternative fighter jets raises more questions about the viability of either of these European efforts. Ahead of these sixth-generation efforts, many European powers have signed deals to buy F-35s in recent years, straining available budgets and putting at least some of them off the market for the Tempest or the FCAS.
Within FCAS, Spain’s Defense Ministry, meanwhile, was recently forced to back down on allegations that he was not considering a potential purchase of F-35 stealth aircraft in the United States, as it seeks to replace part of its fleet of EF-18 Hornets and on-board EAV-8B Harrier IIs. The denial seemed to be aimed squarely at appeasing France, as FCAS leader, while Madrid hedged their bets on future combat equipment.
As for the UK, which is aiming to buy both Tempest and F-35s, cost-saving measures are also on the agenda, with a likely reduction in Lightning numbers as well as thoughts on modernization. of the same planes. These issues are indicative of competing cost priorities in combat aviation and are not limited to the British.
While future competing fighter aircraft programs are indeed in the conceptual phase, some key differences have already become clear. For example, France needs the NGF to be compatible with the operations of aircraft carriers equipped with catapults, as well as the ability to conduct nuclear strike missions as part of its national deterrence.
At the same time, the gap between London and its continental European counterparts is still considerable, due to the UK government’s decision to leave the European Union, better known as Brexit. Anglo-French relations are now even more icy thanks to the new AUKUS partnership, comprising Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Australia’s controversial decision to abandon its plan to acquire French-designed submarines in favor of new nuclear-powered submarines is a direct result of the deal.
With this in mind, while Goretti’s dream of a combined FCAS / Tempest program would likely offer better prospects for financial success at all levels, by pooling resources and reducing competition, as well as ensuring that if Italy, in particular, does not lose any economic advantages, the likelihood of this happening is tempered by the realpolitik of intra-European relations. On top of that is the fact that even at this early stage FCAS and Tempest are already heading in different directions to meet competing demands. As such, Goretti’s dream may well remain that.
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