Airbus and Dassault Aviation have decided to join forces for the development and production of Europe’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which is slated to complement and eventually replace current generation of Eurofighter and Rafale fighter aircraft between 2035 and 2040.

The partnership, sealed in Berlin by Dirk Hoke, Airbus Defence and Space CEO and Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, represents a landmark industrial agreement to secure European sovereignty and technological leadership in the military aviation sector for the coming decades say both companies.

“Never before has Europe been more determined to safeguard and foster its political and industrial autonomy and sovereignty in the defence sector. Airbus and Dassault Aviation have absolutely the right expertise to lead the FCAS project. Both companies are already cooperating successfully on Europe’s medium altitude long endurance new generation drone programme,” said Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space.

“FCAS takes this successful cooperation to the next level and we are absolutely committed to tackling this challenging mission together with Dassault Aviation. The schedule is tight, so we need to start working together immediately by defining a joint roadmap on how best to meet the requirements and timelines to be set by the two nations. It is therefore of key importance that France and Germany launch an initial joint study this year to address this task.”

Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, said:

“We are convinced that by deploying our joint expertise, Dassault Aviation and Airbus can best meet the operational requirements of the Forces in the development of this critically important European programme. Both companies fully intend to work together in the most pragmatic and efficient manner. Our joint roadmap will include proposals to develop demonstrators for the FCAS programme as of 2025. I am convinced that European sovereignty and strategic autonomy can and will only be ensured through independent European solutions. The vision that France and Germany have set forth with FCAS is a bold one and it’s an important signal in, and for, Europe. The FCAS programme will strengthen the political and military ties between Europe’s core nations and it will reinvigorate its aerospace industry.”

Overall, FCAS defines a system of systems combining a wide range of elements connected and operating together, including a next generation fighter aircraft together with Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, the existing fleet of aircraft (which will still operate beyond 2040), future cruise missiles and  drones flying in swarms. The overall system will be interoperable and connected in a larger perimeter with mission aircraft, satellites, NATO systems and land and naval combat systems.

45 COMMENTS

  1. Long way behind the game in terms of planning and production. PAK-FA is almost at production, F-35 is already being deployed and the French haven’t even settled on a fifth gen design, let alone gone through the 20 odd years of R&D it takes for a fifth gen

    • I’m inclined to agree, but it depends whether you look at this as a 5th gen or 5.5 gen fighter. Most of what I have heard suggests that the differences between the two will be range, which one of the graphics above hints at. While I do not doubt the will of France and Germany to be inefficient and less advanced for the sake of sovereignty, I think they’ll be looking for a design more advanced that current 5th gen fighters. Whether they’ll achieve this I have no idea.

        • I think France has the capability if not the money to do a gen 5.5 fighter. Germany will more than likely hold the programme back, for a variety of reasons, not all technical. The inclusion of U.K. would certainly help, but unlikely to happen. I can see Italy and Spain joining this programme if it goes ahead.

  2. So angered by Brexit are the Europeans that they’ve cut BAE out altogether on FCAS projects it appears. We haven’t adopted their VBCI, we said no to further flight trials and integration with Teranis and they’re perhaps worried about our Drednought, QE carriers getting a jump on the soft power game. All this before we mention the cyber advancements we’ve helped them out with as well as heavy lift capability…
    Looks like we’re flying solo on the development of the FCAS I suppose

    • The French always have an eye on exprort. However it is hard to see how they can do this with an expensive fighter.

      I think we are best out of French agendas on desighn that are political. I recall the mess with the common frigate, or indeed the fact the French did their own thing with their fighter as Eurofighter was not exportable enought.

  3. As an alternative to this, the UK should revive the BAE “Replica” work it did in the 90s/2000s and incorporate as many standard current typhoon parts to keep the costs down.

    Once you have a prototype working you can then try to partner up with the current typhoon partners to make it as an upgrade path / next tranche of upgrades, with the body / low radar cross section components manufactured in the UK.

    This is an insurance policy on this initiative and also I am sure Germany would lap this up as an alternative to the F35 which is politically unpalatable there. You already have a European and some export path as a proven markets. Using the same parts as current fighters means you can use current spare parts stock as well which will make it more palatable as an upgrade path. Over time you can improve on current components to give it better engines etc.

    You can then participate in f35 and eurofighter projects at the same time reaping benefits of being the manufacturer in both.

    If there is a worry about having pilots v’s ucav you could look to make the whole pilot area as a pod that can we swapped out to add in more fuel and remote pilot / autopilot functionality as phase 1/2.

    • Replica was an empty shell made to test radar cross sections. The shape was pretty random, they chose a design for the shell that they had lying around from the initial Bae/McD submission to JSF that was discarded early in the JSF process.

      • Ok but the main point is look to reuse a lot of eurofighter components rather develop everything from scratch to make it cheaper / easier to upgrade to and you can then also support industry in the uk.

        • (Chris H) DRS – As I have frequently tried to argue for a ‘Typhoon II’ …. We really must start using Defence expenditure to re-generate our technical, shipbuilding and manufacturing capabilities for a post Brexit UK.

    • I keep banging on about this in the forelorn hope someone is listening, but the UK should concentrate on Taranis/Magma and integrating it into the F35 command structure.

      An F35 controlling 2-4 Taranis into heavily defended airspace whilst it sits in a holding position is mightily tempting, we keep man in the loop whilst de-risking the potential for loss of life.

      Not to mention leveraging the cost and technological benefits of the F35 by utilising much cheaper platforms ( I expect a Taranis to cost £20m). We could have a bomber force of scale with this concept and potentially even a fueling solution for the carriers.

      • I think Taranis combined with F35B could indeed be the way forward but with the best will in the world Taranis will not cost £20 a pop. If it is to be survivable with enough range and payload to be effective it will be expensive.

  4. Anyone see that programme last night about British fighter bomber aircraft? Made me weep, we had too many designs to choose from back in the 50’s.

    • Yea, I saw it. It does make you weep. Big conspiracy theories as to why exactly TSR-2 got cancelled. Absolutely criminal!

    • TS – yes I watched that programme too – its been repeated many times over but it is still fascinating.Post WW2 we were obviously very broke,the Jet age was in full flow but to have 27 Independent Aircraft Manufacturers was surely unsustainable,as the programme showed this was whittled down to 2.perhaps to have 2 competing companies now might do wonders for innovation and competitiveness but sadly we have just the 1.As for TSR-2 maybe we will never know what happened behind the scenes but it certainly looked very promising ,id guess it was part of the price we paid for access to the Polaris System.ps Darren it was on bbc4.

  5. Perhaps the two have learnt from the past but I seriously doubt it. Franco-German cooperation is code speak for German financing of French ambition. The Germans don’t care about this anymore. If they took defence seriously they’d keep what they already have in good order but they dont. This is merely political post-Brexit posturing. The Germans will get as many others on board as soon as, to spread the cost and once certain tech has been developed France will do a runner. France really doesn’t mean it when it talks about European solidarity, and Germany only cares so long as Southern Europe grows their crops and buys their goods.
    It is so good to be heading for the exit. Perhaps once we are out we can take a driving seat in European cooperation (EFTA) and mutuality withOut the BS Brussels sideshow.

    • On a separate note we should keep close to the Japanese and even Turkey, there at developmental options there. The Italians seem quite trust worthy, if they’re interested we could look to bring them in on things.

      • (Chris H) Nathan – Leonardo (the 3rd Eurofighter partner) are being shafted as much as BAE are over this. We already work well with them in helicopters so why not in a leading edge fighter? If Airbus think the French will pay for all this 5th Gen pipedream they have a shock coming and should learn from our history of trusting the French in major military projects. And who is shafting Airbus over the A400M? Only the French and German Air Forces. Utter madness!

  6. If ever there was a very clear signal for the UK Government to get us out of the EU as fast as possible this is one. They are increasingly looking inward and protectionist and we are an outward looking nation. Always have been and why in more brutal times we built an Empire and defeated most of the European Empires.

    So we need to ask some questions:
    * Why is Airbus, as a contracted Eurofighter partner, arranging to build a competitor aircraft?
    * What engines is this Airbus / Dassault aircraft going to use because the EJ200s are Rolls Royce designs, systems and technologies? They also own MTU the ‘German’ partner
    * When is Airbus going to leave Eurofighter to avoid new and later Typhoon developments being ‘transferred’ to Dassault?
    * How much Typhoon technology (especially Project Centurion) has already been passed to Dassault?
    * What guarantees and penalties are in place to protect BAE and Leonardo against the theft by Airbus of current intellectual copyrighted data and technologies?
    * Does this abdication by Airbus now give BAE (and Leonardo) the rights to use Typhoon technologies as they now please?

    That last question triggers an interesting scenario: Airbus build the Port wing and fuselage. The rest is by BAE (Nose, fuselage top, cockpit and tail end) and Leonardo (Starboard wing and ailerons). So if Leonardo can build one wing they can build the other (yes I know we build all Airbus commercial wings) and we can redesign and build the centre fuselage. By adding the F-35 style empennages as I have mentioned before we have ‘Typhoon II’. Or as I would now call it ‘Spitfire II’.

    For sure BAE, RR and the UK Government need to take a very strong attitude towards Airbus Defence about this or they will rob us like the French did over Typhoon, the carriers and now over Taranis / MAGMA. I can see us being hung out to dry when this all falls into place.

    This whole affair wreaks of EU meddling and its march to a federal Europe. Call me biased but when they feel the need to make laws, write Directives and Regulations, have an Anthem, a Flag, a Parliament, a police force, an army and now its own fighter they clearly have political aspirations to be a sovereign country. And we have all this so we can sell widgets to Germany or whoever ….??

    • ” By adding the F-35 style empennages as I have mentioned before we have ‘Typhoon II’. Or as I would now call it ‘Spitfire II’.”

      Well, if we follow the Historical timeline for the aircraft names, then the “Typhoon II” would become the “Tempest.” This would be in homage to the WW2 fighters, the Hawker Typhoon MkIb which evolved into the various marks of the Hawker Tempest.

      IMHO, “Spitfire” is one of those names that just should not be reused. The original aircraft is such a “giant” of history that any aircraft named after it would not be able to live up to the name.

  7. The French will take the technology and leave the German’s high and dry. They don’t collaborate the French they only use other people’s money to develop technology. The German’s are also tight nosed about money so will drag all and sundry into the project and it will be a dogs breakfast. The UK should either develop a sixth generation fighter on their own or go in with the US.

  8. I think the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Japan should all work together to generate a 6th gen aircraft. The South Koreans are designing and bringing into service a 5th gen aircraft of their own design ditto Japan are also trying to do a 4.75 gen aircraft.
    The USA meanwhile wants a 6th gen aircraft to replace F22 and other legacy platforms such as F15. If we can work together and keep costs down I think it is doable.
    The European programme will go massively overspent, hugely delayed and then when finally ordered built in too small numbers reducing its effectiveness and increasing the demands placed on a small number of aircraft and personnel. In short history will repeat itself.
    This will become in essence a typical EU project. UK should stay out of it and work with more reliable partners with a history of actually delivering platforms into service.

    • My thoughts exactly Mr Bell, this Franco German ghost fighter will never happen.

      Best we keep well clear of that car crash!

  9. I reckon they should integrate Israeli electronics.
    And of course, something made in UK – a beer tap perhaps?

  10. Germany has 90 ageing Tornado fighters to replace. The Eurofighter first flew in March 1994, only now (2018) is the RAF at a stage where it has almost integrated its true swing role capabilities. Meteor also due to come online.

    Germany/France are way way behind, and unlike China lack the political will/money to catch up or make it to serial production. Even if they did… How long will this take? Can Germany afford to wait that long?

    I believe Pacman27 is correct in that the future of air dominance is in non manned flight and would be a more sound investment.

    It won’t happen, but Germany/France would be better off joining Japan in their quest to create an air dominance fighter (An F35/F22 hybrid). This has started to get some traction as a means to reopen the close F22 production line.

    • (Chris H) – So why would Germany / France engage with a non EU country on the other side of the world when it has a soon to be non-EU country with whom they have partnered at different times next door?

      SEPECAT Jaguar worked well between BAC and Breguet until Dassault took over Breguet. The French messed about with the early Tornado concepts (AFVG) and left but we Brits, the Germans and Italians delivered one of the landmark aircraft of the last 40 years. And they (+ Spain) then repeated it with Typhoon despite the French playing silly beggars again the early days and left (again) with all they needed to build Rafale

      What cannot be ignored is the common thread of French manipulation once Dassault became involved. And there is a conflict with Airbus owning 10% of Dassault the fingerprints of the French Government are all over how Dassault has acted in two major European projects.

      But I guess you are implying they will want anyone but the British ..??

  11. We have to have these Gen 6 aircraft because we will want to be ahead of everyone we have had to sell the F35 to in order to pay for the F35. And they will be so expensive that we will have to sell them to everyone so that we also afford them. Even then we will lose more batallions and suffer deep cuts to afford just a tiny handful.

    A nice long range AAM launched from a plane with a big radar will see off any air threat. And let’s not sell it so we keep the advantage.

  12. It could be that this fighter is missing the point. By 2040 will planes still need a human in them. I would have thought combat drones would be the logical progression. They would be more agile, probably less expensive and would save lives in combat.

    So France and Germany could be funding an old concept.

    • Agreed, by 2040 a combination of autonomous and remotely piloted drones will mean we no-longer need to put our airmen in harms way. They’ll also be cheaper and smaller than man aircraft – 100+ on a QE carrier?

      Like Arianne 6, European nations seem intent on spending vast amounts on unecessary projects all for the supposed sake of independence: that new fighter will no doubt depend on a lot on non-EU components and technology.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here