FCAS: Kick-Off for the Fighter of the Future Demonstrator
(Source: French Armed Forces Ministry; issued Feb. 20, 2020)
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
The German, French and Spanish (L to R) national procurement chiefs sign the initial contract for the Future Combat Air System demonstrators at the French Armed Forces Ministry if Paris as their respective ministers look on. (DGA photo)
PARIS --- Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Minister of Defense of the Federal Republic of Germany and Ángel Olivares Ramírez, Secretary of State to Margarita Robles, Minister of Defense of the Kingdom of Spain, today signed the contract for the combat aircraft demonstrator, an essential component of the SCAF (Future Combat Air System, FCAS).

The first test flights of this demonstrator are scheduled for 2026. This will be a major step forward for a historic European defense cooperation project.

For the past two years, France and Germany, and more recently Spain, have had an ambitious goal: to equip their respective air forces with a new-generation combat air system that includes a combat aircraft, its accompanying drones and a ‘combat cloud,’ "the system of systems" that allows them to be connected and interact.

This cooperative project is evenly shared between each participant. France welcomes the decision of the Bundestag last week which allows the construction of a demonstrator of the combat aircraft which will be at the heart of SCAF. Its first flight test is planned for 2026: and will send a strong signal for European Defense.

SCAF is the result of the of a common military requirement. An operational imperative for air combat in the second half of the 21st century, it will allow France to maintain its military rank and fulfill its strategic ambitions.

This European aircraft of the future will also be a powerful lever for the integration of European air forces.


Launch of Industy Work on SCAF Demonstrators
(Source: French Defence Procurement Agency, DGA; issued Feb. 20, 2020)
(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)
Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, her German counterpart, the Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and the Secretary of State to the Spanish Defense Minister Ángel Olivares Ramírez, signed on February 20 at the [Armed Forces Ministry head office] new future air combat system (SCAF) agreements.

They define in detail the framework for the initial stage of research and technology (R&T) work, which will culminate in functioning demonstrators by 2026.

Joël Barre, Delegate-General for Armaments, then awarded manufacturers a contract for the initial industrial Research & Technology work for the design phase of the demonstrators.

Lasting 18 months and costing 150 million euros, the contract relates to technologies linked to the new-generation combat aircraft, its engine, accompanying drones, connected collaborative combat and work simulations and overall consistency.

It will be supplemented during the year by the award of additional work contracts concerning the sensors in particular.

The main manufacturers involved at this stage are Dassault Aviation, Safran, MBDA France and Thales for France; Airbus Germany, MTU, MBDA Germany and the FCMS * consortium for Germany; and Indra and Airbus Spain for Spain.

(*): Hensoldt, Diehl Defense, Rhode & Schwarz, ESG.

The SCAF / FCAS, NGF, RC, NGWS Alphabet Soup?

To deal with foreseeable conflicts by 2040, the air assets that we currently own must evolve into a system of systems within the framework of connected collaborative combat: the Système de Combat Aérien Futur (SCAF) or Future Combat Air System (FCAS) in English.

Germany, Spain and France share the same vision for FCAS. Specific to each country but all interoperable, the national FCAS will have to connect the current national capabilities (Rafale for France, Eurofighter for Germany and Spain, drones, surveillance planes, air refueling, command systems) and the future capabilities: these will be open systems combining different assets working in collaboration.

As part of the development of their future SCAFs, the three countries have chosen to cooperate together on what will be at the heart of each of the national FCASs: the development of a new generation combat aircraft (New Generation Fighter - NGF), accompanied by drones (Remote Carriers) which will produce complementary effects.

The whole will be interconnected by a combat cloud. This joint project is called the Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS) weapon system project. It will be able to act either autonomously or in a network with air, naval, land or space combat or command systems ("NGWS within a FCAS").

The NGWS will have to be versatile and flexible to respond to all Air-Air and Air-Surface missions in the context of operations carried out independently, or in interoperability with NATO and EU assets.

It will make the most of the potential of real-time connectivity and data fusion. The full potential of artificial intelligence will be exploited in the NGWS, in particular for the benefit of the New-Generation Fighter (NGF).

The contributions of the other national air combat assets which will network with the components of the NGWS system (current airborne platforms, in particular the Rafale which will continue in parallel to evolve and will remain at the best operational level, our future cruise missiles developed with the United Kingdom, other armaments and drones of different types) will be taken into account from the start.

France provides leadership of the NGWS cooperation project and the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) is responsible for contracting the first contracts.

Previous steps include:

-- July 13, 2017 at the Franco-German Defense and Security Council: France and Germany agree to work on an air combat system to jointly develop the replacement of their current fleets of combat aircraft;

-- April 26, 2018, signing by the Chief of the Air Staff and the Head of the Planung of the German Defense Ministry of the operational requirements document. Spain signs this document in February 2019;

-- February 6, 2019 during the Franco-German ministerial defense meeting: announcement by Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, and her German counterpart of the notification of a first contract of 65 million euros over two years to Dassault Aviation and Airbus to determine the architecture and concept of the NGWS;

-- February 14, 2019: signature by Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, and her German and Spanish counterparts, of the joint letter of intent formalizing the entry of Spain into the NGWS project;

-- June 17, 2019 at the International Air and Space Show (SIAE) in Le Bourget: signature by the three ministers of the framework agreement allowing the launch of joint studies by the NGWS and setting the trajectory until 2030;

-- Since October 2019: installation and ramp-up of the tri-national state project team in Arcueil (Val-de-Marne).



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