A BAE Systems GCAP concept design.
The NGF will have an all-new engine, new weapon systems, cutting-edge stealth technology, improved sensors, and the ability to communicate with drones. You will also be able to join an aerial combat cloud network.
It is planned to replace the French Rafale and the German and Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons. The possibility of using it on the next French aircraft carrier is also being studied.
Franco-German-Spanish Combat Air Program
FCAS is one of the largest European multinational arms programs, with an expected price tag of some $106 billion. Given the increasing number of F-35 acquisitions by European nations, FCAS aims to provide Europeans with a choice of high-end, European-produced stealth aircraft.
FCAS was scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2027, with manufacturing to begin in 2030 and full introduction in 2040. However, disagreements between contractors over workload and prime contractor position delayed the project for two years.
However, Dassault Aviation and Airbus appear to have rectified these problems. On December 16, they announced signing a contract worth 3.4 billion dollars, allowing them to proceed with the maiden demonstration flights scheduled for 2029.
The NGF is not the only sixth-generation European aircraft in development. FCAS rival Tempest is a joint UK-Italian project that began in 2015 and was formally unveiled in 2018.
The fighter was to be the lead product of a larger British-Italian program dubbed the Future Combat Air System, but on December 9, Japan joined its sixth-generation FX program with the Tempest, renaming the initiative the Global Combat Air Program.
France’s well-defined strategic and operational objectives for a new combat air system and Dassault’s heritage of supplying only French combat aircraft make the NGF the most warranted element of FCAS.
With European missile manufacturer MBDA as its main partner, Airbus is the prime contractor for the segment of unmanned aircraft, also known as remote carrier vehicles. Thales will be Airbus’ lead partner in the development of the Fighter Cloud.
The term “remote carriers (RC)” was purposely used to describe UAVs built to work in tandem with the main fighter, but it leaves out crucial details, such as the presence of sensors and, almost certainly, weapons.
Electronic warfare is a critical component of the modern military, enabling aircraft, ships, and ground-based sensors to passively detect, identify, and occasionally track enemy assets that produce signals and aggressively disrupt or deny adversary sensors and communications.
UAVs are considered ineffective in even or near-peer state warfare scenarios due to the level of threat posed by electronic warfare unless they can automatically complete their basic mission set when data links are jammed or would otherwise reveal your location to hostile forces.
That means FCAS can automatically detect, classify, prioritize, and engage hostile aircraft and ground threats according to pre-programmed targets and engagement rules; otherwise, they will be too vulnerable to hostile forces equipped with pragmatic electronic warfare capabilities.
RCs will be stealthily designed and built to retain a high level of stealth. These unmanned aircraft will have three types of sensors: a radar for air-to-air operations, another for air-to-ground missions, and another with an optronic sensor for passive detection.
It will also include an internal weapons compartment that can accommodate electronic warfare pods or various guided munitions against air or surface targets.