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Report: France Expects Combat Jet Announcement at Berlin Air Show

FILE - A model of a SAAB Gripen fighter plane is displayed at the Berlin Security Conference on European Security and Defense in Berlin, Germany.

France hopes a "first significant step" in the development of a new European fighter jet will be announced later this month, Defense Minister Florence Parly told La Tribune newspaper on Thursday.

France and Germany first unveiled plans to develop the new warplane in July, two months after President Emmanuel Macron's election win, burying past industrial rivalries to tighten defense and security.

The project accelerates steps to shape the future of the European fighter industry and its three existing programs — the Eurofighter, France's Rafale and Sweden's Gripen.

Parly said that ongoing "active talks" should permit an announcement at the ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25-29.

"On a political level, discussions between the French and German teams are intense. The industrial groups are working well together and now we have to ensure the two processes come together," Parly told the newspaper.

It was too early to talk about including other EU partners in the project, she said.

Work with Britain on a future combat drone was also advancing, the minister added.

France and Germany have said the new fighter jet would replace the Rafale and Eurofighter, rival jets that compete fiercely for global sales.

It would mark the end of a decades-long split since France withdrew from the Eurofighter project in the 1980s to produce its Rafale warplane with Dassault Aviation.

The Eurofighter is made by Airbus, Italy's Leonardo and Britain's BAE Systems, While the Gripen is manufactured by Saab.