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PARIS (Reuters) - France and Germany have agreed to develop a European fighter jet to replace their existing fleets, part of a raft of measures to tighten defence and security cooperation, according to a document issued after a Franco-German cabinet meeting in Paris on Thursday.

The two countries are to come up with a roadmap for developing the new aircraft by mid 2018, the document said.

The two governments also agreed to set up a cooperation framework for the next model of the Tiger attack helicopter and for tactical air-to-ground missiles.

The document also said the two countries agreed to work together on procuring ground systems including heavy tanks and artillery, and that a contract was expected to be signed before 2019 for the German-led Eurodrone project.

The combat aircraft project buries a split which saw France withdraw from the Eurofighter project in the 1980s to produce its own Rafale warplane via Dassault Aviation.

The document stated that the new combat system, which analysts say could involve a mixture of manned and unmanned aircraft, would replace both the Eurofighter and the Rafale.

However, it did not say what if any role Britain - Europe's leading military power and a partner in the Eurofighter fighter project alongside Germany, Spain and Italy - would play in developing the new successor.

Europe currently has three fighter planes, the Eurofighter Typhoon, France's Rafale and Sweden's Gripen - whereas many defence analysts say there is room for only one combat plane in future because of budget pressures and huge development costs.

(Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey, Michel Rose and Tim Hepher; writing by Leigh Thomas; editing by Richard Lough)

Reuters