Why the Franco-German maritime patrol aircraft is a brain dead project

Avion de patrouille maritime : le PDG de Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier a confirmé que son groupe préparait une offre à partir d

Chronicle of a crash announced for more than a year. Announced in July 2017 by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron in Toulouse, the future European maritime patrol aircraft, the MAWS (Maritime Airborne Warfare System) project, which was to be launched within the framework of Franco-German cooperation, was affected by two new missiles. However, Paris and Berlin still do not want to take responsibility for officially burying the MAWS project, which was intended to replace the Atlantique 2 (ATL2) essential for the support missions of the deterrent force (SNLE), and the P-3C Orion Germans. This program had been announced at the same time as five other cooperation projects between France and Germany: the plane and the tank of the future (SCAF and MGCS), broken down, the MALE Eurodrone drone launched in pain, and, finally, the Tiger Mark 3 and the MAST-F missile released in two stages by Berlin.

Hit by two new missiles

Germany and France have driven two new nails into MAWS’s coffin. First of all, Berlin wishes to acquire three new American P-8 Orion aircraft after the deadly order already placed for five aircraft (1.77 billion dollars), confided at the end of July the chief of staff of the national navy, Admiral Pierre Vandier, during a hearing at the National Assembly. “The future of this project is made uncertain because of their unilateral decision to buy five American planes, P-8 Poseidons, and the project to acquire three others”he explained to the deputies.

In addition, Paris is seriously working on a plan B, explained in mid-July the General Delegate for Armaments Joël Barre, since replaced by Emmanuel Chiva. “Although presented as an interim solution (the purchase of the P-8s by the Germans, editor’s note), this had the immediate effect of forcing us to put back on the job the work of construction of the program in cooperation that we had imagined”, said the former DGA to the deputies. Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier confirmed in July during the half-year results presentation conference that his group “was preparing an offer based on a Falcon 10X that we will submit to the DGA for preliminary study in the coming weeks”. France reflects on what could be its future patrol aircraft maritime. Because no one in Paris believes that the purchase of P-8s is a provisional solution”.

“For France, we are in the money-time, where everything is at stake, since the life of the ATL 2 is limited by that of its engines, the Tyne turbines, the same as those of the Transall, which have just retire. We will therefore have to replace this aircraft in order to ensure the continuity of deterrence support missions”, explained Admiral Pierre Vandier. Clearly, the French Navy needs a new device in the early 2030s. “Atlantic 2 Tyne turbine is end of life in 2032/2033, so get going nowwe say to La Tribune. So the question is clear: are the Germans with us or not?

Berlin’s stab

Why did this program crash? Whose fault is it ? A poor harmonization of capacity schedules between France and Germany: the replacement of the exhausted P-3C Orions could not wait for that of the ATL2 (2030). “When it became apparent that the German maritime patrol aircraft would have a shorter lifespan than ours, we offered Germany a transition solution for the German armed forces, so as not to compromise this Franco-German program”explained in May 2021 the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly in an interview with La Tribune. Today the Germans are an agenda “post 2040” for a new program, confides a source close to the file.

The MAWS project also suffered from Berlin’s obvious lack of will to play collectively with Paris, which tried to find solutions to the purchase of American P-8s off the shelf so as not to compromise this Franco-German program. France offered the Germans an interim solution while waiting for MAWS from ATL2 upgraded to standard 6. This solution did not interest them. Worse, France did not have an answer. “We legitimately thought that this proposal was interesting and, what is more, was part of a coherent approach in which we are already engaged with the Germans with the C-130, as part of the Franco-German squadron of C -130 in Evreux”had then specified the minister in this interview.

And finally, the stab. The Ministry of the Armed Forces was rolled in the flour by discovering neither more nor less than “the US Congress was preparing to give FMS (Foreign military sales, nlr) authorization for P8 maritime patrol aircraft, which cannot, in our view, be a gapfiller pending MAWS”, noted the Minister. This does not prevent the Germans from playing a funny game with France even today. The Germans send the message that they are still interested in MAWS.

This is clearly the message that the new Chief of Staff of the German Navy, Admiral Jan C. Kaack sent to his French counterpart, Admiral Vandier, we explain to La Tribune. The Deputy Chief Plan of the German Navy recently reminded the French Navy of this again. In addition to this central question, will the Germans want to impose Airbus against Dassault Aviation for the platform? “This answer was not given”, we note from a source close to the file. A new match in perspective between Dassault and Airbus? Beyond that, the German tactics seem to disturb the French political leaders, always ready to play the game of Franco-German cooperation despite the slaps received.