According to defense news article, German defense officials are seeking parliamentary approval for the next wave of research contracts in the tri-national Future Combat Air System program.
The next phase is slated to begin in January, but German officials said they are still working to finalize contracts with an industry consortium led by Airbus and Dassault.
Berlin owes €75 million (U.S. $83 million) for the upcoming studies, with the same amounts coming each from France and Spain. The €225 million total packages are slated to fund work on the airframe and cockpit design of the next-generation fighter, which is the manned aircraft at the center of the futuristic program. Additional analyses are devoted to the aircraft’s engine, a communications architecture for connecting all elements of the program, very low observability, remote carriers, and sensors.
Who would have thought it possible that Germany, Spain & France would work together on the same fighter jet? That our major manufacturers would combine their efforts?
The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program is moving forward! Defence Europe is being built.
— France Diplomacy?? (@francediplo_EN) June 17, 2019
Officials have pumped the brakes on two of the study areas for now — very low observability and sensors — pending the conclusion of a two-year joint concept study, signed in February 2019. That is because officials want to first see sensor integration efforts play out on a European level, and because there are differing opinions regarding the application of very low observability, or a high degree of stealth, in the program, Rauber said.
For example, it might be possible to focus stealth efforts on a particular type of remote carrier, or drone, rather than aiming to make the manned aircraft as stealthy as possible, he explained.
For the French, however, the stealth calculus entails the potential development of a separate, larger combat drone. If the FCAS main fighter is stealthy enough, Paris might forgo the development of such a platform, Maj. Gen. Jean-Pascal Breton, the program lead for the French Air Force, told reporters.
Awarding two research contracts at a later time, rather than along with the January 2020 batch, would still keep the schedule of producing a flyable demonstrator by 2026 on track, according to Rauber.
The FCAS weapon, envisioned as a collection of aircraft, drones, sensors, data links and a “combat cloud” tying it all together, is the designated replacement for Germany’s Eurofighter and France’s Rafale fleets. Slated to fly by 2040, officials at the conference here presented the image of a program that is just now starting to come together conceptually.
“It’s still, in a way, crystal ball-looking,” said Bruno Fichefeux, the program lead at Airbus.