Following the agreement reached between the manufacturers, the French Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) has announced details of the contract for the next phase, 1B, of the Future Air Combat System (FCAS) project. It has been awarded to Dassault Aviation, the German and Spanish branches of Airbus Defense and Space, Indra and EUMET, a joint venture between Safran Aircraft Engines and MTU Aero Engines.
Defined by its stakeholders as a ‘system of systems’ built around a sixth-generation fighter jet, the FCAS program is composed of several subprograms, or ‘pillars’, which had to be distributed among manufacturers. This distribution put the project into an almost year-long stalemate, with governments and manufacturers debating over conflicting industrial interests.
After two false starts, Dassault and Airbus finally reached an agreement on the Future Combat Air System program on December 1, 2022, paving the way to the contract from the DGA.
The three manufacturers welcomed the awarding of the contract and detailed the agreement on the project in a joint press release.
- Next Generation Fighter (NGF) with Dassault Aviation as prime contractor for France, with Airbus as main partner for Germany and Spain.
- Engine of the NGF with EUMET – a 50/50 joint venture between Safran Aircraft Engine for France and MTU Aero Engines for Germany – as prime contractor and ITP for Spain as main partner.
- Unmanned systems, support drone (RC) with Airbus for Germany as prime contractor, MBDA for France and Satnus for Spain as main partners.
- Combat Cloud (CC) with Airbus for Germany as prime contractor, Thales for France and Indra Sistemas for Spain as main partners.
- Simulation with Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Indra Sistemas as co-contracting partners.
- Sensors with Indra Sistemas as prime contractor for Spain, and Thales for France and FCMS for Germany as main partners.
- Discretion (Enhanced Low Observability) with Airbus as prime contractor for Spain, and as main partners, Dassault Aviation for France and Airbus for Germany.
- Common working environment with Dassault Aviation, Airbus, Indra Sistemas and EUMET as co-contracting partners.
- Next-Generation Weapon System (NGWS) [the interoperability of the NGF with the RC – ed. note] with Dassault Aviation, Airbus and Indra Sistemas as co-contracting partners
Is the FCAS roadmap still on target?
During phase 1B, the manufacturers will prepare and carry out demonstrations of the various components. €3.6 billion was earmarked for this phase, which should pave the way for the development of a technology demonstrator.
Manufacturers and authorities will have to sit again at the table of negotiations for phase 2, with the production, assembly, and flight tests of this demonstrator.
The maiden flight should take place by 2029, two years later than initially envisioned, and will mark the official beginning of the program.
“The notification of this contract is a major step forward for this important project for the protection of our strategic interests. It testifies to a common will of the States and their industrialists to act effectively by 2040 with a common system at the European Union level for all air missions,” said French Minister of the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu in a statement.
This proposed date of 2040 contrasts with a statement made by Eric Trappier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dassault Aviation, speaking at the Paris Air Forum on June 7, 2022.
“[The target of] 2040 has already been missed, because we have already stalled, and discussions around the next phase are likely be lengthy too,” the CEO said at the time. “We would rather aim for the 2050s.”
Phase 2 of the program will require additional funding of €8 billion, which will first have to be approved by the Bundestag, the lower house of the German Parliament.