MILAN, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Tempest and Future Combat Air
System (FCAS), two European programmes designed to build new
fighter jets, will eventually merge, Italy's Air Force Chief of
Staff said on Tuesday.
At a time when European Union members weigh closer
cooperation on defence without weakening the ties that some
countries have with NATO, General Luca Goretti said that Rome
could act as a bridge between NATO and Europe.
Italy joined the Tempest programme because it felt it could
play a bigger role than in the FCAS programme, he added.
Goretti said that with the two programmes currently in their
"conceptual phase" it was normal that, in this initial period,
each country assessed options on technology.
"But it is natural that these two realities will merge into
one, because investing huge financial resources in two
equivalent programmes is unthinkable," Goretti told members of
parliamentary defence committees.
The Tempest project -- which includes BAE Systems,
Rolls-Royce, European missile maker MBDA and the British
arm of Italian defence group Leonardo -- has a budget
of 2 billion pounds from the British government to 2025, plus
800 million pounds from the companies over the same period.
As Britain works on Tempest with a view to replacing its
Eurofighter Typhoon jets from 2040, France, Germany and Spain
are working on the rival FCAS project to replace France's Rafale
and German and Spanish Eurofighters.
European military and industry officials have frequently
speculated that Europe would end up with one programme to pool
constrained budgets and to avoid repeating the damaging effects
of competition in the past.
But experts have cautioned that any agreement to combine
such strategic combat systems remains far off as companies
cement their positions in the existing programmes and Brexit
remains a fresh political and diplomatic wound.
The recent new trilateral security pact between Australia,
the United States and Britain, known as AUKUS, is seen by
analysts as another hurdle to significant cooperation on defence
(Reporting by Francesca Landini; editing by David Evans)