Meeting in Brussels where both attended the EU Council ministerial meeting, Parly said she had agreed with her German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen to award two separate contracts for technology demonstrator programs for the new fighter and its engine in mid-2019, at the Paris Air Show in June. The two nations’ armaments directors also attended the meeting, which according to an official on Parly’s staff “was a useful clarification of the status of the project, and a concrete step forward.”
These contracts will be the first time the two countries have invested any meaningful funds in their future fighter since the project was unexpectedly announced in July 2017 by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
En juin, France et Allemagne ont décidé de mettre au point, ensemble, l’avion de combat du futur. Étape décisive aujourd’hui avec l’accord pour entamer les études d’architecture et de conception et le lancement de démonstrateurs (avion et moteur) d’ici mi-2019. Ça avance !— Florence Parly (@florence_parly) November 20, 2018
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly’s twitter statement translates as “In June, France and Germany agreed to develop, together, the combat aircraft of the future. Decisive step taken today with an agreement to begin architecture and concept studies, and the launch of demonstrators (aircraft and engine) by mid-2019. It’s moving forward!”
The two ministers have agreed the broad technical content, the schedule and the industrial architecture of the program, and this agreement will be translated into three contracts that will be signed between January and June 2019, Parly’s staffer said, adding that “2019 will be the year when the program coalesces by the award of the first contracts to industry.” He declined to state the value of the contracts, which are still being negotiated with industry.
“We agree that this is a decisive step forward for the future European combat aircraft,” a German defense ministry spokesman said this morning, adding that the ministers’ meeting will be followed by a contract for the concept phase early next year “awarded to Airbus and Dassault Aviation as co-leads.”
Three contracts to be awarded in 2019
In January, Airbus Defence and Space for Germany and Dassault Aviation for France will be awarded a two-year contract for the SCAF architecture and design studies; French electronics firm Thales will also work on this contract alongside Airbus defense electronics units. This study will determine precisely the content of the SCAF system of systems, and also define the future fighter, its drone escorts and other “remote carrier” aircraft as well as how the platforms will network and interact.
To avoid wasting time on arguments about leadership and work-sharing between the two nations and their industries, Dassault and Airbus DS will work these issues out among themselves and come up with proposals for the governments, a French industry official said. “If you see the glass half-empty, you can say the thorny issues have been swept under the carpet, but if you see it half full, you can say that the two companies are cooperating well, and the governments trust they will find a workable solution.”
At the Paris Air Show in June 2019, the two demonstrator contracts are to be awarded to industry.
The French Armed Forces Ministry says they will be awarded to teams led by Dassault for the aircraft and by France’s Safran for the engine; Airbus Defence and Space will work with Dassault while MTU Aero Engines will work alongside Safran on the engine.
Germany demurs on demonstrator contracts
Even though it has agreed to the concept study, Germany has not agreed the terms of the two technology demonstration contracts, the German defense ministry spokesman said, so it is too early to say which country will lead them, and to which companies they will be awarded.
“The demonstrator contracts are not part of Monday’s agreement” between the ministers, he said. “Neither their content nor their contractors have yet been agreed, and will have to be decided as part of the design phase,” he added.
Spain has decided to join the SCAF program, and will sign the necessary paperwork by the end of the year, the Paris website La Tribune reported late Tuesday. Spain was hesitating between SCAF and the British Tempest project, Brigadier General Leon-Antonio Maches Michavila of the Spanish Air Force said at the IQPC International Fighter Conference in Berlin last week, according to Jane’s.
"Something needs to happen [to develop a replacement for our current aircraft] sooner or later, but we want to be partners and not customers," Jane’s reported. "We need access to data and to provide our industrial capabilities. We are modest, but we know how to do things."
The two governments have also agreed on new terminology for the program. The new fighter is now designated New-Generation Fighter, as Dassault showed on a model at the Euronaval show in October, and together with its accompanying combat drones will form the New-Generation Weapon System (NGWS). This, in turn, will be integrated into the Future Combat Air Systems (SCAF in French) that will include ground radars, AWACS, tankers, drones and other support components.