Threat levels are rising due to the increasing development and dissemination of Anti Access/Areal Denial means. European air forces and navies need to prepare themselves for potential large scale high tempo operations in contested environments. To maintain air superiority and minimize attrition levels, Europe’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS) will be a system of systems leveraging manned and unmanned collaborative combat, bringing the next level of Air Power.
FCAS will ultimately require a New Generation Fighter in 2040, which will be more sophisticated with very low observability, cutting edge passive and active sensors, on board smart applications and human machine collaboration. Such a New Generation Fighter will be a battle management platform capable of operating deep within enemy space. When teaming with unmanned modular platforms, named Remote Carriers, New Generation Fighters will have the needed scalable and flexible force multipliers to open new fields of tactics based on deception and numeric superiority.
European air forces and navies will need to accelerate the operational tempo to complete OODA (Observe Orient Decide Act) loops faster than the adversary and take control of the situation. The interoperable Air Combat Cloud will provide common situational awareness by instantaneously capturing, sharing, merging and processing massive amounts of data from all connected manned and unmanned platforms. The Air Combat Cloud’s warfare analytics and real-time coordination will provide better situational awareness, tactical options, decisions and collaborative effects to speed-up the OODA loop.
Operating as a system of systems orchestrated by an Air Combat Cloud, FCAS will allow the OODA loop to be distributed across platforms allowing the dynamic combination of sensing, shooting and battle management capabilities. With a distributed OODA loop, FCAS will provide European air forces and navies with better, faster and more resilient effects paths under human supervision.
FCAS will be an incremental journey. In a world with increasing threats, Airbus and its industrial partners need to start providing from 2025 the first capabilities to maintain European and National sovereignty. FCAS will lead to a doctrinal and technological change. Using such new capabilities will be a huge challenge for European air forces and navies, which cannot be instantaneously achieved. New doctrines, processes and skills need to be gradually developed in alignment with the planned arrival of FCAS capabilities and meeting the related technological challenges. FCAS will require a step by step approach to be jointly tackled by European air forces, navies and industry.
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