The French, German and Spanish governments have awarded the initial framework contracts (Phase 1A) to a consortium of companies, launching the demonstrator phase for the Système de Combat Aérien du Futur (SCAF, or Future Combat Air System – FCAS).
The governments awarded contracts to programme leaders Dassault Aviation and Airbus, along with project partners, including MBDA, MTU Aero Engines, Safran and Thales. The contracts were finalised on February 12 after the German parliament approved spending on its half of the agreed €155m (US$167m) budget with France – which totalled €77.5m (US$84m). The countries, along with Spain, signed the agreement on February 20 in Paris.
According to Airbus, the “framework contract covers a first period of 18 months and initiates work on developing the demonstrators and maturing cutting-edge technologies, with the ambition to begin flight tests as soon as 2026”.
Since the start of last year, the industrial partners have been working on providing future architecture under the programme’s Joint Concept Study. The award of the Phase 1A initial framework contract enables the project to enter another decisive phase.
Dassault Aviation will develop the proposed Next Generation Fighter (NGF) as prime contractor, with Airbus acting as a main partner on the project. The NGF is set to be a core element of the FCAS. Airbus will be the prime contractor in providing an Air Combat Cloud (ACC) and an unmanned systems Remote Carrier (RC), partnering with Thales on the former and MBDA on the latter. Safran and MTU Aero Engines teamed up early last year to develop the platform’s engines. All companies will also jointly develop a simulation environment to ensure consistency between each demonstrator.
Airbus added that: “The launch of the demonstrator phase underlines the political confidence and determination of the FCAS partner nations and the associated industry to move forward and cooperate in a fair and balanced manner.
“The increased momentum enables industry to deploy the necessary resources and best capabilities to develop this decisive European defence project… FCAS will be the cornerstone project guaranteeing Europe’s future operational, industrial and technological sovereignty,” it added.
The FCAS was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in 2019 by French President Emmanuel Macron. The programme will produce a sixth-generation fighter that is scheduled to enter service with France, Germany and Spain sometime between 2035 and 2040, replacing the Dassault Rafales, Eurofighter Typhoons and Boeing F/A-18 Hornets in current service.