Originally due to be signed at the Paris Air Show in June, the demonstrator programs were postponed first to late 2019 and then to January 2020, which ended on Friday without any announcement.
There has been no official explanation for these repeated delays, and France’s armed forces ministry, the DGA defense procurement agency, and Dassault Aviation declined to comment.
A source at Airbus Defence and Space however said Feb. 03 that the delay was due to the German Parliament’s budget committee, which failed to approve the contracts on time. He suggested approval could now be reasonably expected by mid-February, with contract award to follow shortly thereafter.
“The authorization of German funds as part of the common German-French funding for the first R&D-phase towards a technology demonstrator is subject to approval of the [appropriate] committee within the German Bundestag,” a German defense ministry spokeswoman said Feb. 04, indirectly confirming the Airbus official’s explanation.
Whatever the reason, these delays are fraying nerves in both air force staffs and industry in the three FCAS member countries.
New Contract slippage worries air staffs, industry
On Jan. 31, the chiefs of staff of the French, Germany and Spanish Air Forces took the unprecedented step of writing an open letter explaining the critical need for FCAS, and calling on their governments to award the demonstrator contracts “in the coming days.” The letter was published in Le Figaro (France, ABC (Spain) and in an unspecified German newspaper.
The three chiefs of staff -- General Philippe Lavigne (France), General Ingo Gerhartz (Germany) and General Javier Salto (Spain) said they “welcome the cooperation between their three countries to develop the air defense instruments of tomorrow,” adding that they “are firmly committed to the success of this project within twenty years.”
Going public with their commitment to FCAS, the chiefs of staff wrote they have agreed to converge their operational visions as much as possible, and that they “plan to sign a document specifying this common vision at the next ILA show in Berlin in May 2020.”
Meanwhile, industry and air force leaders in the three countries worry that, as time passes without contract award, the already tight schedule for NGF may slip further, in turn threatening the entire FCAS schedule. It is currently planned that the demonstrator of the next generation combat aircraft should fly in 2026 with its new-generation engines, so as to reach an initial operational capability for the system of systems in 2040.
Program structures progressing
The companies involved in the demonstrator studies, led by Dassault Aviation and Safran Military Engines, have set up and are paying design and development teams without any substantial financing from the three governments, which impacts their cost structure.
The three countries have already signed a High Level Common Operational Requirement Document (HL CORD) for NGWS / SCAF, and in October 2019, an integrated project team, made up of operational experts from the three countries, was set up near Paris to supervise the concept, research and development work, with a view to precisely defining the outline of the NGWS and its demonstrators to come.
Ce matin, le CEMAA a rencontré le personnel intégré du programme SCAF : une équipe franco-germano-espagnole très enthousiaste, prête à relever le défi de la conception du Next Generation Weapon System (système d'armes de nouvelle génération) comme pièce essentielle du SCAF