The CEO of French group Dassault Aviation, Eric Trappier, is opposed to European countries that have opted for the US F-35 fighter jet – Belgium in particular – joining the Future Air Combat System (SCAF) programme, which links France, Germany and Spain.
“I don’t see why I would give work to the Belgians today,” Trappier said at a hearing on Wednesday before the French Senate on the 2024-2030 Military Programming Law, LPM, project proposed by Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu.
The LPM is under discussion in both houses of the French parliament.
France, Germany and Spain have launched – not without difficulty – the SCAF programme, which is intended to define the fighter aircraft that will succeed the French Rafale and the German/Spanish Eurofighter, in the best-case scenario by 2040.
Belgian industry is urging the federal government to join one of the new-generation combat air system projects currently under development, whichever it may be, taking care not to decide in favour of the SCAF or the British-Italian-Japanese Tempest – now GCAP (Global Combat Air Programme).
Through its security and defence think tank, the Royal Higher Institute for Defence, IRSD, the Belgian Ministry of Defence has launched discussions with industry with a view to possibly participating in a Next Generation Combat Aircraft Technologies (NGCAT) programme.
However, the Dassault CEO, still angered by the previous Belgian administration’s choice in favour of the F-35A Lightning II from US group Lockheed Martin to replace the ageing F-16s, on Wednesday showed himself to be hostile to Belgian participation in SCAF.
“I hear about the Belgians, that’s all very well. But I would then advocate setting up an F-35 club within SCAF,” he told French senators. “I don’t really see the point in putting more F-35 countries into SCAF... Why would I make room in my factory, in my design office for people who have chosen the F-35?
“I hear people say: we could give jobs to Belgian companies straight away… No. If it’s imposed on me, I’ll fight. I don’t see why I would give jobs to Belgians today.”