Paris, Berlin Issue Long-Awaited FCAS Demonstrator Contracts
TOULOUSE—France and Germany have awarded long-awaited contracts for the “decisive” initial demonstrator phase for the Franco-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
The contracts, worth a total of €155 million ($168 million) and equally funded by Paris and Berlin, were announced late Feb. 12 as Airbus prepared to announce its 2019 financial results.
The funding pays for the first 18 months of work—Phase 1A—to develop the demonstrators and mature new technologies, and will support work by primes Dassault and Airbus, as well as their partners MTU Aero Engines, MBDA, Safran and Thales.
Contract award for the demonstrator program had been expected last summer at the Paris Air Show but this was held up by the need to secure approval from the German Parliament; a January deadline agreed by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last October also was missed. That deadline followed warnings from industry that the program had to make progress or risk losing momentum.
The program hopes to a deliver a fighter technology demonstrator for flight tests as early as 2026, with Dassault acting as prime and Airbus as a main partner. It also will deliver remote carrier aircraft—unmanned aircraft systems that will operate alongside the fighter as a loyal wingman or providing electronic warfare or surveillance capability. Airbus will lead on the development of the remote carrier, with MBDA as a main partner.
Airbus also will lead the development of the so-called combat cloud network connecting FCAS with other platforms including the remote carriers, other fighters, tankers and intelligence-gathering assets.
Development of a demonstrator engine, likely based on the Safran M88 powerplant from the Dassault Rafale, will be led by Safran with MTU as main partner.
Airbus says a simulation environment also will be jointly developed by the company to “ensure the consistency between demonstrators.”
“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 company said in a statement.
Spain and additional suppliers to the FCAS program will be introduced in Phase 1B after the conclusion of Phase 1A, Airbus says.