DUBAI (Reuters) - A senior Italian air force official said on Saturday that he expects French and German plans to develop a new warplane will eventually include other European countries.
France and Germany announced in July they would jointly build a new European fighter jet to eventually replace the European Eurofighter and the French Dassault Rafale.
The joint declaration did not say what role, if any, other European countries would play. Italy is a partner in the Eurofighter project alongside Germany, Spain and Britain.
Italian Air Force Chief of Staff Enzo Vecciarelli told Reuters that he could not see the development of “such a complicated system” without including the wider European aerospace industry.
“We have to look for all the countries to join for a new venture towards a fifth generation plane,” he said at a military conference in Dubai.
The F-35, made by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) in the United States, is the only Western-made fifth generation fighter jet available for export, according to its manufacturer.
Fifth generation is a definition that varies among manufacturers but broadly includes advanced stealth capabilities and a high level of computerised connectivity between fighter jets.
France and Germany aim to come up with a roadmap by mid 2018 for jointly leading development of the new aircraft to replace their existing fleets of rival warplanes.
(This version of the story corrects third paragraph to remove France from list of Eurofighter project countries and paragraph 6 to add dropped words ‘available for export’)
Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; editing by Clelia Oziel