BERLIN --- What should the future common European fighter plane look like, what should it be able to do and how should the different systems be networked?
These are essential questions for the further development of the Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS) and the national Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
The Air Chiefs of the German, French and Spanish Air Forces have now signed two important key documents.
The German Air Force inspector, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, the French Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Philippe Lavigne and the Spanish Air Force Chief of Staff Lt Gen Javier Fernández had already agreed on the content during a video conference on May 7.
They have been with the Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS) program from the start at the working group and management levels. They have now specified and defined their common position on two important topics. (Because of the current pandemic restrictions, each signed the documents at his desk—Ed.)
Cooperation as seamless as possible
The first is a common vision of the Air Force, the "Common Understanding Connectivity" (CUC), to promote the interoperability of its own air combat components and that of its multinational partners, and to pave the way for connectivity at the NGWS / FCAS level.
Interoperability is the ability of different systems to work together as seamlessly as possible. Connectivity basically describes the ability of operating systems to establish a connection between a computer and networks. A common understanding of the operation of complex communication systems is a key element of the Next Generation Weapon System program. The CUC enables partners to bring their development programs closer together and to coordinate them.
The second topic concerns the evaluation criteria for the architecture of the NGWS. So far, there are ten different models of how the system could be built. There are several concepts for the planned new fighter aircraft (Next Generation Fighter) as well as for their unmanned support aircraft (Remote Carriers) with differences in range, maneuverability, armament and others. The Air Chiefs have now jointly weighted the evaluation criteria for the architectures in order to support the joint project team in their selection in a later phase of the concept study.
The Next Generation Weapon System consists of several components. From 2040, the Next Generation Fighter, unmanned remote carriers and a Combat Cloud will form the Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS) which, together with other systems, will constitute the Future Combat Air System (FCAS)
FCAS is intended to connect all components – both manned and unmanned -- in air combat as a "System of Systems" from 2040 -. The aim is to create a large-scale system that connects the individual systems of the participating countries with the support of artificial intelligence. The heart of every Future Combat Air System is the Next-Generation Weapon System, which is shared by Germany, France and Spain.