SHARE

The UK and France recently announced a £1.54bn project to build a prototype of the Future Combat Air System, a defence minister has confirmed that work on this project is progressing despite earlier worries over Brexit

Britain’s approaching exit from the European Union has been a key factor in growing uncertainty over the project, according to the chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

“Naturally, Brexit worries the British authorities, and not just the British authorities but also British industry,” Eric Trappier said March the 8th at a media conference on 2017 financial results.

“We are at a time when it has to be decided to launch, or not, a demonstrator for a combat drone.”

However Guto Bebb, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, has recently indicated that the FCAS project is now progressing:

“The Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative was announced as part of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review and consists of three core strands of activity on developing Combat Air technologies: international projects, including our work with France; national projects; and an open mission system architecture project.

We are working closely with UK Industry teams, who are on contract to develop key technologies for any future system. We are in discussion with industry and international partners to inform the Combat Air Strategy being developed following the announcement by the Secretary of State for Defence on 21 February 2018.”

In 2012 France and the UK signed an MoU for an unmanned Future Combat Air System, which will build upon the BAE Systems Taranis and Dassault nEURON demonstrators.

Under the terms of an Anglo-French development contract announced in 2014, parts from the Taranis will be combined with the Dassault nEUROn in a joint European UCAV.

The demonstration programme – the most advanced of its kind in Europe – “will be centred on a versatile UCAS platform that could serve as a basis for a future operational capability beyond 2030.”

 

48 COMMENTS

    • I agree, more cooperation on military projects with European countries, should help to silence the so-called angry voices in Brussels?

  1. I fear this will be another case if history repeating itself. How much more will partner nations bring to the table that Britain has not already developed itself?
    Most of this will be scrapped so we can spend billions more developing new ‘joint’ systems and delay this project another 10 years to get a 30% workshare and still be the only nation commited to ordering it in significant numbers.

  2. I am confused UK and France are going to jointly develop a 5th/6th generation aircraft or stealthy UAV. That is a good idea no problem.
    But just week Macron and Merkel signed a 4 billion euro budget to jointly do the same.
    Now I am worried. Are France going to be developing 2 different aircraft? OR is it that they are hedging their bets and will see what programme comes to fruition and offers the best potential then they will withdraw or scrap one of these programmes. The losing programme will then be stripped and France will undertake extensive technology transfer from the scrapped programme into the surviving programme, which of course will be the Franco German one.
    Thus I fully predict our friends and allies are going to shaft us over, scrap the programme and/ or make it so complicated, expensive and delayed the UK will have to withdraw and tread its own path after wasting billions and billions. Better of out of it, we can easily develop our own future military aircraft.

    • 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.

  3. Usual rubbish.

    1) Brexit should have NOTHING to do with it. In that case how come the UK can collaborate with the USA on F35? They are not in the EU. Nor are Japan, another with whom there is talk of increased co operation and joint projects.

    2) We developed Taranis. Why are we not developing this further ourselves and marketing it as “global Britain” ?

    I agree with posters above. History repeating itself and the project will suffer years of delay over political wrangling, work share arguments, and France putting itself first.

    Good for France. If only the UK would do the same!

    • I agree. Do we really not have the expertise and funding to evolve Taranis to a commercial product? (That was intended as a rhetorical question where I would say the answer is “of course we do, if only there was the necessary political will behind it”.)

      Drones are getting everywhere, from big heavy military stuff like this down through lighter military drones (of the sort that could significantly increase the utility of many of out smaller RN vessels) down to Amazon-like delivery drones, inspection drones, etc. The U.K. really should be looking at developing this as a core national competency. Small space satellite technology is one area where many people don’t realise how strong the U.K. is in that field and some of that expertise, graphene expertise, our skills in software and particularly signal processing are all very significant for drone technology.

    • Yes i agree Daniele. I am also concerned that the 2012 designs they are basing that MoU on are already out of date. I mean, 6 years is an eternity in drone technology development.

  4. I’m sorry, Brexit has nothing to do with this, the decision to develop this was a bilateral treaty between the British and French. The whole spiel that Brexit is threatening the project is inane.

    • The UK had joint projects with France and Europe before it was part of the EU, such as Tornado; why should that not continue? I just fear that France will end up with most of Taranis’ technology while the UK bows out. This happened with the early satellite launchers derived from Black Arrow. The UK gave it up, and now France is one of the major satellite launchers in the world.

  5. The decision to leave the EU is of no consequence to the continuation of this joint project. There is simply no existing EU body or mechanism which would impact the military relationship between UK and France.

  6. Sounds like the CEO of Dassualt Aviation wants to walk away from the project, stealing lessons learned from the UK and then become the exclusive manufacturer/supplier of the drone to the EU and beyond. Would anyone be suprised if the above senario happened ?

    • Or how many Junkers, Barniers, MEPs & other gravey-train mandrins?

      This smells of another French con for us to help them with the costs of a French spec UAV with little benefit to the UK. Duplicating the effort with Germany undelines this.
      I also wonder about the wisdom of expecting too much of UAVs. When the AAM & SAM was invented, suddenly piloted aircraft & cannon/machine gun armament on fighters was deemed obsolete, but this prooved far from true.
      An army of hackers could turn all those super-duper high capability against us whilst Titanic deniers would be telling us it could never happen.

    • I can debunk that easily.

      We pay around 13 Billion a year, for eternity, remaining in.

      How many hospitals and Schools can THAT buy?

      I also believe we pay that in instalments like our yearly membership fee now, so no real change is there as we are still paying until 2020.

      • TH

        Brexit is costing nothing. A set of commitments mad by current/previous governments are being met.

        It’s actually what the UK does – we stick by the agreements we sign.

      • Danelle – exactly so. We are committed to funding the EU Spending Round until December 2020 and the reason why the EU selected that date and not April 2020 for the end date of any Implementation Period prior to our leaving. That is some £20 Bn (being 1 1/2 years). The other £15 Bn is for ongoing Pension costs spread over 30+ years.

        In 30 years we would have paid in some £390 Bn in today’s money. You have to wonder what planet the TH’s and Remainers of the world live on ….

    • Or how many Junkers, Barniers, MEPs & other gravey-train mandrins?

      This smells of another French con for us to help them with the costs of a French spec UAV with little benefit to the UK. Duplicating the effort with Germany undelines this.
      I also wonder about the wisdom of expecting too much of UAVs. When the AAM & SAM was invented, suddenly piloted aircraft & cannon/machine gun armament on fighters was deemed obsolete, but this prooved far from true.
      An army of hackers could turn all those super-duper high capability against us whilst Titanic deniers would be telling us it could never happen.

  7. TH the 2nd world war cost the UK the equivalent of £1.5 trillion to fight in today’s money.
    Defending Europe as part of NATO since then, so NATO garrison missions £500 billion.
    Thus the price of freedom, democracy and sovereignty does come high. £40 billion is a lot of money but is small change over long timeframe and is only high because our friends and allies are trying to financially penalise the UK for daring to hold a democratic vote. If you live in a democracy sometimes you have to accept that the will of the people is not your views or wishes.

  8. Some people in Scotland have apparently already seen these flying the skies, so I’m guessing we’re light years ahead in Scotland and developed these decades ago. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

  9. I worry about this project. the statement of taking parts from British and French system makes it sound like it’s designed by committee. It might be just a language thing but making sure it’s 50% design from each country will end up being lowest common denominator. It should be based on taking the best features from both and seeing what can be built from them, if that means it’s 80% French 20% British so be it or vice versa.

    • BAe have already built several test demonstrators. Engines and nost of the sensors should already be available off the shelf. I dont see why this needs another 10 years of development if BAe has already carried out successful flight trials for several years now. The whole fixed wing concept they are working on is interesting but the costs will outweigh the benefits.

    • That approach is already being followed with the ‘son of Meteor’ missile project, combining U.K. rocket expertise with Japanese scanning technology, so it would make sense to do the similar with the UAVs.

      One caveat though, any UAVs developed must be compatible with our QE class carriers so that the F35B isn’t the only fixed-wing asset that can be deployed on it.

  10. Taranis has taken flight in Australia and seems to work and from what I can see BAE have moved on to Magma.

    Can the UK not do this alone – make sure it works seamlessly with the F35 so that a single F35 can “manage” 2-4 of these onto target to deploy their loads whilst the F35 is in a standoff position.

    This would reduce risk to the manned system, increase our bomber load and force size and perhaps even offer a solution for refuelling from the carriers. Just like Norway and the JSM if we get this right it could be a massive export success for the UK.

    Last I heard of this joint enterprise, France had insisted their engine goes in instead of the latest RR tech, so not a great sign that this is going to be a leading edge solution.

    Surely we aren’t that far away from getting Taranis to a production ready prototype, if we are then we really do need to get a grip.

      • multinational projects are great for spreading r&d costs and decreasing costs through scale but are a mess from a ‘it must have x% parts from my nation and use y% of our existing tech’ resulting in a highly compromised final product. You need a lead nation that defines how things will go and can make the final decisions, but that only happens when they put in the initial investment and risk.

        • Understood Steve, but those partners need to be trustworthy and not just take all the intellectual property and spin off their own competing products (which in France’s case is all too familiar story).

          I think we can and should take a number of strategic projects (not just military) and see them to conclusion.

          We used to be good at the big idea stuff – now we don’t even try.

  11. We need to work along with this technology demonstrator, then use the developed technically to leverage our way into
    a joint next gen UCAS program along with the US, Japan and South Korea.

    Only with 1000 plus production numbers,
    joint development and the all important “serious” funding from this “A” team, can we procure a truly capable and above all affordable system in the numbers required.

    After all, does anyone here seriously think the Anglo French program will lead to an operational system?

    No chance, but it could well end up being what the EAP was to Typhoon, a vital steppingstone.

  12. I’m sure that this will end with both France and the U.K getting the UAV that they want…………
    Chance of it being the same UAV………..
    No hope …….on pasted levels of success.

  13. My car failed its MOT yesterday – Brexit was to blame of course …..

    And in the real world what we have here is a repeat of the Typhoon and the Aircraft Carrier. The French will cherry pick what they want, demand an outrageous amount of workshare and then jog off with a Gallic Shrug and build their own aircraft. Leaving the UK having shared all its technology, developments and capabilities and no aircraft.

    We should NEVER EVER co-operate in ANY manufacturing with the French on ANYTHING. History shows us they will shaft us every time because the French Government (contrary to EU Rules) owns so much of French industry. When Vauxhall closes in Liverpool in a few years time ask PSA which are owned 14% by the French Government why. And note which country will take up manufacturing Vauxhall cars (a clue here: PSA has too much Peugeot and Citroen capacity in France).

    As dear old Maggie would say: “No. No. No!” to which I add ‘Never’. We must use the £13 Bn a year we will save from leaving the EU on rebuilding British manufacturing, shipbuilding and aerospace as well as other key parts of our infrastructure. There is already huge support in Parliament (post Salisbury as the Debate yesterday showed) for an increase in Defence spending to between 2.5% and 3% of GDP. So what the Brexit Bonus must be used for is to ADD that extra something we can use to our advantage. And what better than something like a UK UCAV.

    Allez Vous En France …..

    • Agree with all this. The UK is so naive when it comes to collaboration with France.

      Given the special relationship with the US and advanced aviation projects im curious how much we don’t share with Europe given it’s sensitivity.

      • There is a potential counter argument to this. We are also getting their technology in the deal as it is not a one way sharing relationship, so if France pulls out, we can take all their best features and build a world beater. We really have no idea how effective the BAe design is, all we have seen is mock ups and demonstrators. Don’t forgot we scammed the US into giving us their nuclear missile designs by faking that we had exploded a multi-megaton bomb nuclear device, when in reality we hadn’t.

        Potentially the MOD is not being as naive as it initial looks, who knows.

  14. In all fairness, the Anglo-French UCAV (if it happens) is currently based around two distinct national flying prototypes (BAE et al having differing approaches to signature reduction to the French team).

    The engine and sensors will have commonality but the outer mould line may be different- if it happens.

    The UK has the F35 for LO, and the French are more in need of an all singing, all dancing unmanned wingman to help Rafale in a way that the UK is not.

    From a UCAV perspective (as opposed to a sensorcraft) the apparent new, low cost LO wingman which the MOD recently issued an RFP for (still under the FCAS banner), might actually work better from a UK point of view: allowing Typhoon and F35 numbers to be maintained in the future.

  15. You can’t develop anything with the French unless its to their benefit meaning they make sure they have the lions share of anything that comes from this but make sure we pay.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here