BAE Systems has been awarded contract by the Ministry of Defence to work on Future Combat Air System (FCAS) concepts and technologies.

Image shows a BAE Systems Future Combat Air System concept unmanned aircraft, a manned solution however has not been ruled out.

According to a short description of the contract:

“The TIZARD single source contract, which will be awarded for a maximum of twelve months, will continue work on future Combat Air concepts, associated requirements and their key technologies that define next generation combat air capabilities.

These are TRL 0-3 activities that are crucial for UK National Sovereignty and are compliant with SDSR2015 direction.”

The single-source award without competition is justified, say the Ministry of Defence:

“A key aspect of this procurement’s single source justification is MOD cumulative investment (over a number of decades) into BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd, as the UK’s lead Air systems integrator.

During this time BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd have built up a unique level of credible and capable technical expertise and Suitably Qualified Experienced Personnel (SQEP), and is necessary for the integrated delivery of concepts, associated requirements and the application of technology.”

51 COMMENTS

  1. Great! That means there are only another six TRLs to go before a capability can be deployed. Honestly, let’s face it, this contract has been let only to keep enough SQEP people in BAES’ core design team. We’re no closer to fielding a FCAS (manned or unmanned) than we are to landing a man on Mars. Which is fine, cause Typhoon still has a long way to go and F-35 is only just entering service. Just let’s not get carried away and pretend otherwise.

  2. It’s a positive step in the right direction at least.

    Now let’s find the funding to upgrade our Typhoon fleet with the latest EJ230’s, thrust vectoring, and conformal fuel tanks. I would still like to see a Navalised version of Typhoon sooner rather than later.

    Building 2-4 test aircraft would be money well spent in all of these areas. I’m hopeful that the recent news from across the channel and the pond will finally get things moving along with our current defence secretary.

      • Admittedly a Navalised Typhoon isn’t world-beating… but it would be cheaper than an entirely new Air Superiority fighter, and it would be competitive. This would mitigate some risks to the fleet and improves our surge capability.

        The F35B is ill-suited to dogfighting and can’t carry many missiles without sacrificing its stealth capability. We’re entirely reliant on our enemies not cracking its stealth, which seems risky, because if they do… then we’re sunk.

      • I cannot believe we are buying an aircraft (48 min) with such a limited payload, range, and a maximum G of 7.5 that will not be fit for purpose until at least 2024 or in the numbers required.

        It’s only real advantage, stealth is fast diminishing.

        • I think you may be underestimating the avionics, sensor fusion and networking of the F-35 among other differentiators. This seems to be at least as important as stealth and perhaps more so.

          Also to say stealth advantages are fast diminishing seems a gross generalization. For example fighter aircraft radar will have far shorter detection ranges than say L-band ship or long wavelength land based radar and the latter will still detect low RCS 4.5 gen non stealth aircraft such as Typhoon much earlier/further out than a stealth F-35 with internal weapons.

          • (Chris H) – I think we all just made the case for a ‘Typhoon II’ developed from the platform we have and using advances already designed, tested by BAE and capable (engines, thrust vectoring CF tanks, better wings, twin F-35 style rear Empannages, better sensors etc). This would not cost the mega bucks a brand new ‘stealth’ aircraft (that loses stealth as soon as you bolt wing pylons on) like Airbus / Dassault are now embarked on and could be delivered safely before 2035 when Typhoon will need replacing anyway. And OK add in strength for a hook if necessary and the MoD look like they will add CATOBAR to the QE at its first major refit in 2035 / 2040. The dates are conveniently close for Typhoon retirement and QE refit

            The Europeans have declared their hand – time to reach out to Canada (Bombardier / BAE) to develop a long term requirement. Aussies are totally in bed with USA with F-35A and Hornet now sadly. But we should go it alone anyway if necessary.

          • Everyone seems to bring up this range issue with the F35b and I don’t understand why, yes it has a smaller combat radius than the other variants but that’s still bigger than the FA18 and nobody complains about that

  3. Another?

    Like the contract for Taranis that then went where exactly?

    Can someone explain what I’m obviously missing here please.

    We seem to have endless concepts and contracts to BAES resulting in aircraft which are then not bought or developed further.

    • Daniele, as I said, just an excuse to trickle-fund and maintain BAES’ core design team. It’s all smoke and mirrors, but it could be argued that had MOD done the same thing with VSEL back in the day, we might have not had to ask Electric Boat to help rescue the Astute programme.

      • (Chris H) Richard – I fear your Sceptical self is being too .. well …
        We need to do this ‘trickle fund’ as you call it precisely to keep key research and development teams going. Its what delivered Taranis and latterly MAGMA. Unless we explore in our own right what the possibilities are, how much it will cost and what it will deliver for the UK we will gradually slide into complete dependency on the USA. German Airbus and French Dassault have already made it clear we are not part of their future plans. Fine. We don’t need them to develop anything for us. The French only get involved in anything to rob it and then do it themselves as history has shown.

        It is sad BAE are always chosen for abuse because overall they deliver some pretty amazing kit. It seems the Yanks appreciate BAE Systems more than we do. And maybe the Aussies do now as well.

        • My sentiments entirely Chris H.

          It’s time we realised that the UK and BAE Systems can and still do produce world leading military equipment and its time for this government to do the same and start investing heavily in it.

          I’ve never fully understood why we rely so heavily on the USA and others, when we clearly have the ability to do it ourselves.

    • It was the same with Zephyr, do all the hard work developing it then sell the design to a foreign company so they can make money off it. We should have set up a factory and started building them for ourselves and export.

  4. I always thought they where delaying Taranis until production orders dried up for Typhoon. By that stage Taranis development would be complete and they would be ready to switch production to it.
    It now looks like Germany and the UK will put in a few more sneaky orders for Typhoon to keep the production line open which is a shame (not because I want people to lose their jobs) but I think F35 and Taranis are the future of air power.

    • Where has it been reported that the RAF will order more Typhoons or are you suggesting we will order more to try and export?

  5. This is not about delivering a viable air warfare platform, it’s to accumulate the research material so when we sit at the table with international partners we will be able to play a significant role in the development of a combat UAS.

    • You mean hand over all of our completed research and agree a 30% workshare before they reduce their orders by 50%. Europe brings nothing to the table that the UK has not already developed itself. European collaboration does nothing but cause delay increase costs and reduce the UK defense industrial base.

      • It’s more than just about workshare it’s about design leadership and being at the forefront of technology so the UK can dictate the terms of any arrangement.

        This was achieved with both Tornado and Typhoon, they were basically UK specified aircraft with some minor modifications required by other partners.

        An arrangement with the USA is more difficult, but we became a tier one partner not based on any order or financial investment it was the technology we bought to the project.

      • Exactly BB85, we should press ahead with this by ourselves, I have no doubts whatsoever we could do it if we wanted, then we will be able to have a factory to build the full things ourselves instead of just a few bits and pieces.

        • (Chris H) – We are better than we think we are and it dismays me how we are always very quick to run our abilities and even our country down. Italy, Spain and Germany brought nothing to the Typhoon project and France only ever took out. There is the lesson we need to understand – Forget Europe as partners.

          So we must plough our own furrow and see what we can produce. Its maybe time we got countries like Canada, Australia and NZ on board as part of ‘5 Eyes’ and worked out what a common platform may look like. Type 26 shows what we can achieve in high end, flexible military platforms. I have always believed a ‘Typhoon II’ is what Canada needs although its a bit late with Australia as they are now hooked on the F-35A. But it could be delivered at (comparatively) low cost with each building their own aircraft and fitting whatever warfighting systems they need. We have only just started to develop the Typhoon’s real potential so improving on what we already have shouldn’t be difficult and therefore costly

          And if there are no partners then we do it ourselves given the lower cost of developing and extending a proven platform rather than try to outdo the Yanks with a new F-37 (or whatever). If we want more stealth we buy more F-35s but there will always be a need for a multi / swing role bomb truck Typhoon type of aircraft and this funding will help us develop what that future platform will be. Just as it delivered Taranis and MAGMA. Typhoon needs replacing by 2035 as it will be out of service by 2040. that is 17 years away

          And no we do NOT need a naval version ….

    • Spot on Mike, this will never be a UK only system ( manned or unmanned) this is about building up our CV portfolio to put on the table with whoever we end up building the new system/systems? with.

      I would expect further trials work for Taranis as part of this general UK plc ‘ invest in us’ show boating.

      As for a Naval Typhoon, it will never happen, not in a month of Sundays, in this or any other alternative reality!

  6. The UK was able to participate as a Tier 1 partner in the F35 because of the work done on the Replica project some years ago. How much of this is to get the attention of the French and Germans or another potential partner nation? There’s a general acceptance that Europeans have split the fast jet market with 3 offerings (Gripen, Typhoon, Rafale) when we could have had a single offering. When you look at the countries with deep pockets who want western tech. (ie Middle East) UK does fairly well. Would they want to have the UK as a competitor?

    • I for one hope we don’t get involved with any Franco German money pit Eurofighter take 2 disaster.

      I’m done with them….

      Our future lies with an extended partnership, building on our Anglo American F35 program success and bringing on board Japan and South Korea and personality I would like to see SAAB as part of it too.

      • Sadly John, your right. What should make sense which is a European project is just the opposite’with them all wanting to take their ball away and play without us. Well, good luck to them. You mentioned SAAB. It strikes me that the UK could do worse than build upon a strong military and economic base with the countries in the Joint Expeditionary Force area.

        • (Chris H) SAAB are a very capable business and BAE works well with them as the Aussie T26 order shows. The only political issue is Sweden’s formal position of being Neutral. That could obstruct future sales and who we could supply in times of conflict. There is also the fact that we as a nation will not sell to certain countries to whom SAAB are happy to sell Grippen. I understand we already blocked one international sale because of UK concerns about BAE technology going into the wrong hands.

          Increasingly I think we should take our future in our own hands and have a lot more belief in what we as a nation can do. I think being in the EU has led us into a sense of failure and a lack of self belief where we can only succeed by partnering with other EU countries. Well stuff that …

  7. Personally Expat, I find it very hard believe that any Franco German next gen fighter would ever get off the drawing board!

    The lack of UK money, acknowledged high tech know how and orders Will ensure this program steadily goes the way of the dodo!

  8. If you don’t research and you don’t invest and you don’t carry out tests you don’t find anything out. All power to the project, timed for when we need it, in about ten years (? ). If the system was available now what would we cancel in order to use it?

    • And also, once you’ve found stuff out, in many cases you can file patents. Technological innovation isn’t a million miles away from military operations nowadays, a lot of it is occupying territory where here the territory is intellectual property ownership. More power to them in making scientific and technological progress and planting flags wherever possible.

  9. Look at the Supermarine ‘S’ series float planes of 30’s which were heavily subsidized by the RAF. Was this showboating or was it Technology Development on the way to the Spitfire? Always been happening.

  10. Oh dear, now we have to listen to posters here for the next 3 years talking about how this is a saviour like Taranis. Great for fantasy fleet aficionados though.

  11. We are almost there with Taranis and we should productionise it and use it for a whole range of roles we have a need for

    1 carrier A2A refuelling
    2 UCAV
    3 MPA
    4 ISTAR

    Just off the top of my head

    We can build these for £20-40m each and pair 2-4 with a single F35 to form a deep penetration bombing squadron.

    As the Norwegians have shown with some of their platforms and missiles. Good products will get customers and I see a really big export market for these

    More than that the uk needs Taranis/magma so we should just get them built. Another opportunity slipping us by. With our primary defence contractor being far too comfortable in sucking us dry. No output. No project is my mantra

    • I think by the time you add all the necessary nav/attack / ECM/ eccm systems to Taranis, plus sense and avoidance etc ( it will need to be certified system, able to safley traverse any airspace) replace the asthmatic Adour engine with a new design, or EJ200 variant and add a sizable internal weapons bay, you won’t have any Taranis left, you will have however a larger, meaner and very expensive beast!

      Even more so if you propose a carrier variant and you want to squeeze a lift fan in there too… Even a small one for dedicated RVL’s, Technical complexity of that is a non starter from a cost perspective alone.

      Here’s the rub, the development cost for UK plc would be very substantial indeed and the regular updates countering obsolescence, would again all come from the UK taxpayer.

      The old rule of thumb used to be a minimum order of 400 to allow a program to progress, now I doubt the RAF will purchase any more than 80 to 100 UCAV’s… Tops!

      So you have to sell one hell of a lot right off the drawing board, that’s quite a stretch…

      I can only see such a beast flying with RAF roundels on if it designed and produced by the ‘A’ team ( USA, UK, Japan, South Korea and hopefully Sweden).

      Shared development, build and upgrade costs, upward of 1,000 on order and as a result, low unit cost.

      • John, Whilst I don’t necessarily disagree with your analysis, I think we should go for it anyway, thats what business is about.

        From what I can see we have a capable product here already (taranis that is) and we should bring it into production ASAP to work alongside our F35 fleet (person in chain).

        I think the RAF could order 200 of these and perhaps you are right in that we get the Japan, South Korea and Sweden involved. The US will have their own product.

        The Scandinavian countries are having success with some of their products – its all about finding a niche and going for it. Given the current standard of our aerospace industry this would seem to be. niche we could own for decades to come.

        Is it risky – yes, but the alternative is to constantly barter away our IP, instead of making the big bucks.

        • Exactly pacman, other countries have products in various fields yet Britain is expected to believe that we can’t have a product of our own in any field, and we shouldn’t even try.

          I don’t subscribe to this negative nonsense at all. We have to have products in at least some fields and this one would be perfect. This is the future of aviation, make fighter, bomber, maritime patrol, surveillance, etc. versions of it, buy them ourselves and I guarantee we will get exports.

      • Why no Australia in “the ‘A’ team”? Too wedded to US systems? Wrong stage in their aviation procurement cycle to be interested? I’m just guessing at reasons, I don’t have much knowledge of Australian defence matters but they seem to have some good innovative companies down there, and their name begins with “A”!

        • Afternoon gents, Australia was missed out by mistake …

          That said, they are totally tied to US procurement today. To the point we’re they may ditch their still quite new Tigers for AH64E’s in the coming years!

          What a mistake buying them was!

          So regrettably, I feel they wouldn’t be interested in joining a UCAV project.

    • (Chris H) SQEP – do give me one good reason why we should throw away our design and development capabilities in advanced materials and design to provide jobs for Americans?

  12. We need to give our aerospace industry an injection and this seems like a no brainier to me. We should also invest significantly in niche areas where we lead the world but do not market ourselves well currently. Radar, next gem submarines, sabre engines and ASW platforms to name some.
    Get world leading products out and market them properly.

    • I agree but one area that you mention there, radar, is worrying me. With Arrowhead 140 not currently proposing a UK radar, and the RN’s commitment to evaluate CEAFAR, I not only don’t see the investments you and I hope for, I see dangers of us reducing our use of home-grown radar technology. None of this has come to pass yet, Arrowhead might pull BAE/Artisan into its offering and CEAFAR evaluation might either go nowhere or might turn into some sort of collaborative joint development still using a lot of home-grown UK technology and expertise but if things go the other way that would seem to put the UK’s radar industry into reverse gear.

  13. F-35 is NOT limited to 7.5G, it’s far more agile than any current 4th generation fighter, it’s alsi far faster than the M1.7 Wikipedia claims

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