In what has to be a shock announcement delivered by an emerging Franco-German partnership at a delicate point in the Uk brexit exit negotiations, details of a planned Franco-German programme set on developing a next-generation European fighter will be tabled in the next few months, says CEO of Airbus Defence and Space CEO, Dirk Hoke.

The move is seen as a direct threat to UK based BAE and a clear indication that France-based Airbus is rapidly moving on as the company attempts to distance itself from the catalogue of disasters and missed deadlines associated with Eurofighter and A400M.

France effectively pulled the plug on french participation in the Eurofighter program during the 1980s to produce its Rafale jet with Dassault. The Eurofighter Typhoon is due to be retired from German service in around 2045.

In an interview with Reuters earlier this month Airbus CEO  Dirk Hoke claimed that France and Germany intend to work out how to proceed with the development of a new European warplane programme. They might also consider bringing in an  additional partner country.

Details of the shock developments emerged during the Munich Security Conference which took place on February 16-18, 2018  “We expect basic issues, such as how the project will be structured, to be discussed in the second quarter, so that the initial contours will be set in the second half of the year,”

Hoke suggests that different firms could lead different segments of the project. However much would depend on the level of investment by participating [EU] countries, which has always been a stumbling block.

Back in July 2017, Reuters reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans to jointly develop a new advanced European fighter jet  - that would be a successor for the Eurofighter Typhoon - and effectively cutting the post-brexit UK out of the project.

The newly developed combat system,  could combine both manned and UAVs  unmanned aircraft, designed to replace the  Rafale, Eurofighter, and the 'long in the tooth' Luftwaffe  Panavia Tornado.

The parties have made it clear the move is designed to bury decades-long rivalries and in the process tighten defence and security co-operation between France and Germany. This is seen as a priority as the UK, until now a major contributor to EU defence, backs out from the EU, as the Brexit deadline approaches.

Clearly these developments will disadvantage the UK, the UK regarded as Europe’s biggest defence spender, and could cause problems at its major arms contractor, BAE Systems.

Effectively locked out of Europe, Industry analysts could see  Britain rapidly moving towards much closer cooperation and possibly merging some divisions with the U.S.

The UK already operates the Lockheed Martin F-35s as well as having a share of the troubled Eurofighter program through BAE.