The Future Combat Air System is a key instrument in ensuring future European autonomy and sovereignty in defence & security.
Furthermore, it strengthens Europe as an industry and technology hotspot, not just in the defence sector, but with important spill-overs into the civilian world.
How did we get where we are today? And what have been the most important FCAS milestones so far?
First of all, FCAS is progressing well as planned!
The very first decision to develop a joint European Air Defence System of the next generation was taken by Chancellor Merkel and President Macron, in summer 2017.
Since then, Germany and France have repeatedly underlined their ambition to realise this important European undertaking, which is considered an important – if not the most important – instrument of an integrated European Defence Policy.
At ILA 2018, the German and French Defence Ministers, Ursula von der Leyen and Florence Parly, signed a “High Level Common Operational Requirements Document” (HLCORD), defining the common expectations and requirements for a Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS) within a FCAS.
In parallel, Airbus and Dassault Aviation, in their roles as National Industry Primes for Germany and France, agreed on a wide-ranging transnational industry collaboration to jointly lead this ambitious project, with Dassault Aviation leading the development of the New Generation Fighter (NGF) and Airbus Defence and Space as the main partner.
In turn, Airbus is in charge of Remote Carriers (RC) with main MBDA as main partner and the System-of-System/Air Combat Cloud (SoS/ACC) with Thales.
Another important operational milestone followed in February 2019, with the signing of the Franco-German “Joint Concept Study” (JCS), the very first transnational contract for a FCAS, with a volume of 65m € and a duration of two years.
Only a few months later, in May 2019, during the Paris Airshow at Le Bourget, we experienced a remarkable step towards the Europeanisation of FCAS with Spain officially joining the programme.
And finally, in February 2020, we received the contract for the Demonstrator Phase 1A, with a volume of 155m € and a duration of 18 months, which signals the beginning of the technology development & maturation for a FCAS.
In the meantime, of course, negotiations with the governments and our industry partners have started for a Demonstrator Phase 1B that will build on the work currently performed in Phase 1A. Additionally, the full integration of Spanish industry in FCAS is under way.
All in all, and considering the magnitude & complexity of the programme, these are remarkable achievements within a relatively short period of time – which would have not been possible without the good & trustful collaboration of all partners involved!
Manned-unmanned teaming (MUT)
In 2018, Airbus successfully performed manned-unmanned teaming (MUT) test flight campaigns, confirming the company’s expertise in controlling remote carriers from a manned aircraft. These test campaigns included demonstrations with five Airbus-built Do-DT25 target drones controlled from a mission group commander airborne in a manned command and control aircraft.
The Air Superiority Tactical Assistance Real Time Execution System is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) project that aims to digitise the human-level experience to support operators with their tactical coordination tasks in the context of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
Future Combat Air System: Airbus and Fraunhofer FKIE create expert panel on the responsible use of new technologies
The expert panel, which was first initiated in Germany in 2019, currently includes stakeholders such as the German Ministry of Defence, German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, foundations, universities as well as think tanks. Learn more on the dedicated website www.fcas-forum.eu