On 12 February Dassault Aviation, Airbus and programme partners MTU Aero Engines, Safran, MBDA and Thales announced the governments of France and Germany have awarded them the initial framework contract (Phase 1A) for the demonstrator phase of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

The contract covers an initial 18-month period and instigates work on developing the demonstrators and maturing the cutting-edge technologies required, with the ambitious target of beginning flight tests as early as 2026.

The industrial partners have been working on the future architecture as part of the programme’s so-called Joint Concept Study since early last year. Now, the FCAS programme takes a decisive step forward, with the launch of the demonstrator phase which will, from the start, focus on the main technological challenges in each domain:

• Next Generation Fighter (NGF), with Dassault Aviation as prime contractor and Airbus as main partner, to be the core element of FCAS;

• Unmanned systems Remote Carrier (RC), with Airbus as prime contractor and MBDA as main partner;

• Combat Cloud (CC), with Airbus as prime contractor and Thales as main partner;

• Engine, with Safran and MTU as main partners.

A simulation environment will be jointly developed between the involved companies to ensure consistency between demonstrators.

The launch of the demonstrator phase underlines the political confidence and determination of the FCAS partner nations and the associated industry to move forward and cooperate in a fair and balanced manner, the companies averred in a joint statement. The increased momentum enables industry to deploy the necessary resources and best capabilities to develop this decisive European defence project.

A major aim of FCAS is become the cornerstone project guaranteeing Europe’s future operational, industrial and technological sovereignty. The next important step in the programme will be to bring Spain on board and to involve additional suppliers from Phase 1B onwards.

A mock-up of the NGF at the Paris Airshow 2019. (Photo via Wikipedia)

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