France, Spain and Germany Sign European Fighter Jet Agreement

The project fits in with Emmanuel Macron's ambition to increase European co-operation.

Emmanuel Macron with Ursula von der Leyen (left), Florence Parly (centre) and Margarita Robles (right) sign the agreement at the Paris Air Show (Picture: PA).

France, Germany and Spain have agreed to develop a European fighter jet and air combat system, as they bolster efforts to reduce their dependency on the United States.

Defence ministers from the three countries signed an agreement at the Paris Air Show that lays out how the countries will co-operate on the project, which would include a new-generation combat aircraft.

French President Emmanuel Macron presided over the signing.

The project fits in with his ambition to increase European co-operation at a time when the United States under President Donald Trump is showing an increasing reluctance to support the continent militarily.

The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) is not expected to be operational until 2040.

Requirements for the air combat system, that will also include drones, will be decided by 2027 and the development phase should start by 2030.

French defence minister Florence Parly said the deal is "concrete proof that Europe is capable of anticipating tomorrow's great strategic challenges".

"The FCAS is a major asset to tackle the power struggles of the second half of the 21st century. What is happening today is historic," she said.

Dassault Aviation and Airbus are set to build the jets, which will eventually replace Rafale and Eurofighters.

The programme was launched by Mr Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2017.

Airbus said it will be connected and operable with a wide variety of aircraft, satellites and NATO systems, as well as land and naval combat systems.

Authorities have not said how much it would cost but the dpa news agency estimates it could be 100 billion euros (£89 billion).