(Image courtesy: Dassault Aviation)

Airbus and Dassault Aviation will start development of the “New Generation Fighter” for European FCAS program

The sixth-generation fighter incorporates stealth technology and will work with cloud-linked unmanned aircraft system (UAS) wingmen.
Later this month, Dassault Aviation SA and Airbus SE will begin work on a first-ever joint concept study (JCS) to develop a new highly capable, manned “New Generation Fighter” (NGF) aircraft for France and Germany’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program. The aircraft concept is currently categorized as a “sixth-generation” fighter.

Originally proposed at the 2018 Internationale Luft- und Raumfahrtausstellung (ILA) Berlin Air Show, the planned NGF will be equipped with a set of new, upgraded weapons systems and will leverage integrated, cloud-linked unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or “remote carrier” wingmen embedded in a in a system-of-systems FCAS architecture. Airbus has been investing in manned-unmanned teaming (MUT) research and development and successfully validated its MUT capabilities during an exercise last year.

(Image courtesy: Dassault Aviation)

Together the NGF and remote carrier wingmen are considered the program’s Next-Generation Weapon System (NGWS) and an asset under the FCAS system umbrella. As currently proposed, the NGF is a twin-engine, carrier-capable, delta wing aircraft with no canards or vertical stabilizers – most likely for the stealth purpose of reduced side aspect radar cross section detection.


Read more: Multi-Layer Framework for Synthesis and Evaluation of Heterogeneous System-of-Systems Composed of Manned and Unmanned Vehicles

According to a joint statement by Dassault Aviation and Airbus, the decision by both countries represents a milestone to secure European sovereignty and technological leadership in the military aviation sector for the coming decades.

“This new step is the cornerstone to ensure tomorrow’s European strategic autonomy. We, as Dassault Aviation, will mobilize our competencies as system architect and integrator, to meet the requirements of the nations and to keep our continent as a world-class leader in the crucial field of air combat systems,” says Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

The two-year JCS was announced in Paris and is based on the bi-nationally agreed high level common operational requirements document (HLCORD) signed at in April 2018 at the ILA Berlin Air Show between French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, and her German counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen.

Work will begin on the JCS February 20, with the aim to conceptualize the different FCAS capabilities and to pave the way for future design, industrialization, as well as an estimated full operational capability by 2040. If adopted into service, the NGF would eventually replace France’s Dassault Rafale, Germany’s Eurofighter Typhoon, and Spain’s McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet multirole fighters – all of which are categorized as fourth-generation fighter aircraft.

For perspective, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lighting II fighter aircraft are considered fifth-generation aircraft.

Ideally, the study will prepare and initiate demonstrator programs for launch later this year at the Paris Air Show in June 2019.

The JCS will be used to assess operational and technical viability, as well as evaluate program feasibility of advanced baseline concepts and identify technological needs.

“FCAS is one of the most ambitious European defense programs of the century. With today’s contract signature, we are finally setting this high-technology program fully in motion. Both companies are committed to providing the best solutions to our nations with regard to the New Generation Fighter as well as the systems of systems accompanying it. We are truly excited about having been given this opportunity and appreciate the trust placed in both our companies,” says Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space.

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.
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