July 17, 2018 / 10:36 AM / a year ago

BAE says international partners to join UK fighter project in 2019

FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) - BAE System’s (BAES.L) CEO said international partners would be brought in to help to develop Britain’s proposed new fighter jet in 2019, also signaling that teaming up with a rival Franco-German project in future was possible.

FILE PHOTO: A union flag flies over the entrance to the naval dockyards, where BAE Systems are also located, in Portsmouth, Britain November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/File Photo

BAE showed off a model of the new warplane, Tempest, on Monday, linking up with a group of industrial partners to fulfill a government plan for a new combat jet by 2040. Britain said the project would need international partners to help to take it forward.

Charles Woodburn, CEO of BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defense company, said the plan was to bring those partners onboard during 2019.

“In terms of the timeframes for international partnerships, we’ve talked about...2019,” he told reporters at the Farnborough Airshow on Tuesday.

The launch of Tempest has raised questions about the future of European defense cooperation, given that Germany and France launched their own fighter jet program a year ago.

This program is led by France’s Airbus (AIR.PA), part of the Eurofighter consortium and Dassault Aviation SA (AVMD.PA), the maker of the Rafale.

Industry executives have said that the Tempest project could at some stage be merged with the rival Franco-German plan, although Britain is trying to negotiate its departure from the European Union in March 2019, making any tie-up tricky for the time being.

Woodburn said no partners had been ruled out.

“I think the UK government has an open mind on this and will keep an open mind,” he said. “Our view is that it’s a team sport building next generation systems and to use a footballing analogy you really do want the strongest players around the table and that’s in all of our interests to do that.”

Asked about Brexit, Woodburn said the impact on BAE Systems was limited, but noted that one area where the company could be affected was on the Tempest project.

“Team tempest, that is, from a Brexit perspective, is where it can or could affect us in future,” he said.

Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Mark Potter and Jane Merriman

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