Written by Ms. Ashwini MAHAKALKAR & Ms. Veechika SHETTY
On 9/2/2023, we had a great opportunity to have heard from Arm.Colonel Philippe KOFFI, Head of FCAS Combined Project Team from the French Armament Procurement Agency (DGA). During the Luncheon, he spoke about the “Air Power European cooperation en route to first Flight”.
The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) is a joint program between France, Germany, and Spain, aimed at developing a next-generation military aircraft system. The FCAS program represents a significant investment in the future of European military aviation and is a critical component of Europe’s efforts to maintain its independence and sovereignty in the face of evolving security threats.
The FCAS program is being developed with the aim of providing Europe with the capability to defend its airspace and maintain air dominance in the face of future security challenges. It consists of a next-generation combat aircraft, unmanned systems, and a wide range of supporting technologies and systems. The program is being jointly developed by France’s Dassault Aviation, Germany’s Airbus Defense and Space, and Spain’s Indra Sistemas, with the first flight planned for 2026.
Key Features of FCAS
The FCAS program is designed to address many of the challenges facing European military aviation, including increasing threats from advanced air defense systems and the need for greater flexibility and adaptability in response to changing threats. The key features of the FCAS program include a network of manned and unmanned systems that can operate in a coordinated and collaborative manner, advanced stealth technology, and advanced artificial intelligence and autonomy.
Innovation: In order to capture innovation opportunities from innovative ecosystems including startups, SMEs, and labs, a dedicated amount of each work package budget is reserved for the FCAS program. Known as “Flex Tokens,” they can be used to invest in game-changing technologies or could possibly cover work package risks if needed. This innovation approach allows for agility and modularity and should make the bridge between large aerospace and defense companies and civilian “tech” companies in order to integrate the latest innovations.
Working Environment: Another key success factor for the FCAS program is the tailor-made working environment that has been created. A restricted and secured NGWS network has been established in order to enhance collaboration and respect prior work principles, allowing digital continuity among stakeholders and the setting of a harmonized framework.
Our Views: The FCAS program represents an ambitious undertaking that has the potential to shape the future of European military aviation. By developing cutting-edge technologies and integrating these systems into a single, coherent network of air and ground assets, the FCAS program could provide Europe with a powerful tool to defend against a wide range of security threats.
However, the success of the program will depend on several factors, including effective collaboration between the three partner countries, sufficient funding and resources, and the ability to adapt and evolve in response to changing threats and technological advances. It will also be important to balance the need for advanced technology with the practical realities of operating and maintaining these systems over their lifetimes.
Overall, the FCAS program is a promising initiative that could have far-reaching implications for the future of European military aviation. As the program continues to evolve and develop, it will be important to remain focused on the key objectives of the program, while remaining agile and responsive to changing threats and opportunities.
Complementary text below (excerpts)
FROM USAIRE NEWSLETTER (written by Alexandre Malka)
The Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) is a joint military program initiated between France (FR) and Germany (GER) then joined by Spain (SP). FCAS aims at developing next-generation combat air systems for the European Union. The program was announced in 2017 as a response to the changing global security environment and the increasing technological challenges posed by the development of new weapons systems (e.g.: A2/AD, Hypersonic Missiles, Electronic Warfare…). The primary objective of FCAS is to ensure that Europe remains a leader in military aviation technology and to maintain its independence and sovereignty in this critical area of national defense.
Understanding the NGWS Concepts
One of the key components of the FCAS program is the development of a highly-automated fighter jet: the Next Generation Fighter (NGF), which will be designed to operate in highly-contested airspace and will be capable of carrying out a wide range of missions (Multirole), including air-to-air combat, air-to-ground attacks, and reconnaissance. This 6th generation fighter jet will be equipped with advanced avionics (including AI and a virtual assistant), stealth materials, cutting-edge propulsion systems, sensors, new weapons systems, and will be capable of operating in a highly-coordinated manner with Remote Carriers* (RC’s) within a Combat Cloud**. This combination of NGF + RC’s in Combat Cloud represent the Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS).
Therefore, SCAF is commonly referring as a “Systems of Systems”. In the center, there is the NGF. Then, encompassing it and comprising, in addition to the NGF, the remote carriers and the combat cloud, you obtain the NGWS. Then FCAS itself encompassing the previous ones and adding to them other nationals’ capabilities already existing (e.g: Rafale and Eurofighter) as well as tankers, reconnaissance aircrafts and command systems, up to satellites.
Discover Phase 1B & 2 Principles
The 15th of December 2022, after a decisive episode of political alignments regarding the launch conditions of next program’s phase, the 1B Contract Phase has been signed to represent its effective start. Budgeted for 3 Bn€, this phase (approx. 3years) should be followed by a Phase 2 already estimated at 4,5 Bn€ in order to achieve major milestone of Demo maiden flight by 2030. The 1B and 2 Phases will be led under a precise industrial set-up allowing clear understanding of responsibilities and leadership, a guaranteed direct access for all stakeholders and the full visibility for all stakeholders.
Derived from the operational & conceptual studies co-created between Dassault, Airbus Defence&Space and INDRA (where technologies and concepts needs are defined), a 7-pillar approach (see below) has been deployed in order to manage the validation of those and work’s scope.
This 1B Phase is set to answer the following objectives:
- [Operational] – The selection of a single NGWS Architecture
- [Technology] – Maturing the technologies involved (from TRL 3 to TRL 4)
- [Demonstrators] – Achieve the design up to PDR (Preliminary Design Review)
- [Flights] – MUT demonstration on MOTS Drones
More than 3000 engineers are expected to be involved on the achievement of 1B Phase, and probably more for the phase 2 which will consist in:
- [Operational] – The refinement of the single NGWS Architecture selected
- [Technology] – Ground testing technologies (up to TRL 5)
- [Demonstrators] – Investigate the Development and Manufacturing of the Demonstrator
- [Flights] – Maiden flights of major flying demonstrators
In order to manage these two phases, FR, GER, SP have agreed on costshare and workshare principles. Indeed, they each committed in funding the program’s phase with 1 Bn€, and decided all the workshare of the 7 pillars to be balanced between them. Finally, the leadshare also follow a specific project logic with Joint, Shared or Delegated governance per workpackage (WP).
It is important to keep in mind that the workshare partition is not set in stone and may evolve as the program progresses. The goal of the FCAS program is to ensure the best possible technology and expertise are brought to bear on the development of next-generation combat air systems, regardless of national borders.
A decade has fly by since previous and successful collaborative research program Neuron, it implies to find out a new “success formula” to ensure FCAS program succeed in being the best by its entry into services by 2040+.
To capture Innovation opportunities from innovative ecosystems including star-ups, SME’s, Lab’s – a dedicated amount of each workpackage budget will be reserved. Known as “Flex Tokens” they will be used to invest in game-changing technologies or could possibly cover WP’s risks if needed. Permitting agility and more modularity, this innovation approach should make the bridge between large A&D Industrials and civilian “Tech” companies in order to integrate the latest innovations.
As another key success factor, the common working environment for this program has been tailor- made. Indeed, a restricted and secured NGWS network has been created in order to enhance collaboration and respect prior work principles stated (for the industrial set-up), allowing digital continuity among stakeholders and the setting of an harmonized framework (tools, processes, …).
To resume, there are many challenges ahead to achieve this program, that will be addressed thanks to trusted collaboration and mutual understanding to converge towards joint concepts of collaborative combats. Program’s efficiency has been prepared with the setting of a proper and comprehensive collaborative framework as an adapted budget agility to nurture maturation of technologies. In conclusion, the FCAS program represents a major investment in the future of European military aviation and is a critical component of Europe’s efforts to maintain its independence and sovereignty in the face of evolving security threats. By developing cutting-edge technologies and integrating these systems into a single, coherent network of air and ground assets, FCAS will provide Europe with the capability to defend its airspace and maintain air dominance in the face of future security challenges.
*Remote Carriers: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are aircraft that are operated remotely or autonomously, without a human pilot on board. They are used for a wide range of applications. Their primary role is to play as force multiplier. Designed in a affordable trade-off regarding their mission, they could even be expendables.
**Combat Cloud: it refers to a networked system of air, land, and sea-based assets that are connected, secured and integrated through a cloud-based platform. The goal of the Combat Cloud is to provide a highly-integrated, responsive, and flexible system that can support the effective execution of military missions in a dynamic and complex operating environment.
FCAS: Future Combat Air Systems
NGF: Next Generation Fighter
NGWS: Next Generation Weapons System
RC’s: Remote Carriers
UAV’s: Unmanned Air Vehicles
PDR: Preliminary Design Review
TRL: Technology Readiness Level
A2/AD: Anti-Access / Area Denial
MUT: Manned-unmanned Teaming – is the operation of manned and unmanned assets in concert towards a shared mission objective.
MOTS: “More-Off-The-Shelf” – is a procurement strategy that involves the acquisition of existing, commercially available technology, rather than developing new systems from scratch.
SME’s: Small and Medium Enterprises
Additional sources used: SÉNAT SESSION EXTRAORDINAIRE DE 2019-2020 / Rapport d’Information : Fait au nom de la commission des affaires étrangères, de la défense et des forces armées (1) sur le système de combat aérien du futur (SCAF), Par M. Ronan LE GLEUT et Mme Hélène CONWAY-MOURET, Sénateurs.
Written by: Alexandre Malka
Résumé de carrière
- Depuis 2019 Directeur de la Combined Project Team (CPT) NGWS.
- 2014-2019 Directeur du Segment de Management Drones de Combat et Système de Combat Aérien Futur.
- 2011-2014 Architecte capacitaire Engagement Combat.
- 2008-2011 Manager drone de combat.
- 2005/2008 Chef de la section “Aérodynamique et performances des aéronefs” et Architecte concepteur d’ensemble du programme de démonstrateur Neuron.
- 2003/2005 Expert furtivité des aéronefs au Service des Programme Aéronautiques.
- 1999/2003 Ingénieur d’études hydrodynamiques au Bassin d’Essais des Carènes.
- Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (2018)
- Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (2014).
- Médaille Vermeil de l’Académie de l’Air et de l’Espace (2014).
Source : Academie de l’Air et de l’Espace