British Tempest and Franco-German FCAS could finally merge into a single European fighter program – Italy

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Tempest and the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), two European programs aimed at developing next-generation fighter jets, will finally merge, said General Luca Goretti, chief of staff of the Air Force Italian.

European countries are pushing two different programs to develop sixth generation aircraft and a host of new systems. Italy joined the UK-led Tempest program because it believed it could contribute more than it could to the FCAS program, Goretti explained.

He further pointed out that both programs are still in their “conceptual phase”, so it was only natural that each government should assess the technological possibilities during this period.

A concept of the Tempest fighter (image BAE Systems)

According to Reuters, General Luca Goretti would have informed the parliamentary committee of defense of the country: “It is natural that these two realities merge in one. This is not the first time that suggestions have been made to combine the two projects.

Previously, German Luftwaffe Lieutenant-General Ingo Gerhartz had tried to reconcile the two competing plans by consulting his Italian and British counterparts. He said: “It is conceivable that we are on different paths. Hope we can fit in in the future.

In addition, efforts have already been made in Italy to combine the two programs. In 2019, a large Italian think tank suggested that the country should strive to combine the Tempest project with a similar Franco-German project.

General Luca Goretti also noted that Rome could function as a link between NATO and Europe at a time when members of the European Union are debating how to increase defense cooperation without undermining ties. with NATO.

The British Storm

The Tempest program was unveiled at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow, where a full-scale conceptual model was presented. BAE Systems is currently leading the Tempest program, which aims to develop a sixth generation “system of systems” air combat capability.

This program received an initial investment of £ 2bn ($ 2.6bn), with Italy and Sweden joining as partners via Leonardo and Saab.

The Tempest fighter plane should be the focus of the program. It will most likely be a piloted / unmanned aircraft with a number of essential technologies including a multi-function radar frequency system and a “portable cockpit”.

British government declared by 2020, seven more organizations had joined the program, bringing the total number of people working on Team Tempest to 2,500 by 2021.

Despite the fact that the UK procured Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets from the US, the joint combat program does not boost the UK’s national defense industry.

The UK originally planned to purchase 138 F-35s, but that number has now been lowered to 48. For two years, experts have been studying the possibilities of replacing them, or at the very least of accompanying them with another high-tech aircraft.

F-35B fighter jets make their first landing aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth
F-35B fighter jets make inaugural landings aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth -RAF

Previously, Air Marshal Richard Knighton, UK Deputy Chief of Staff, said that when the current 48 F-35s are delivered, the country will no longer command until 2025. Knighton also admitted that more than 48 jets were needed.

“Tempest is one of the UK’s most ambitious tech initiatives,” says one declaration from the UK Ministry of Defense. “Tempest is expected to provide a highly advanced adaptive combat air system that will enter service in the mid-2030s.”

As mentioned earlier, the new Multifunction radar frequency system, which is designed uniquely for the Tempest by aerospace company Leonardo, is one of the most promising technologies the Tempest will be equipped with.

In addition, Rolls Royce is working on a new propulsion system capable of withstanding more heat than previous engines.

An infographic outlining the basic goals of the Tempest program

The possibility of seamless compatibility with drones is also being considered. The Tempest will be intended to operate with its own herd of drones, similar to the US Air Force’s Skyborg program, Australia and Boeing’s Loyal Wingman, or Russia’s recent efforts to combine their Su-57s with the Hunter UCAV.

European FCAS

The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) / Système de Combat Aérien Futur (SCAF) is a 6th generation stealth fighter aircraft that was revealed in 2018 and initially exhibited at the 2019 Paris Air Show. It is intended to replace the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter. Typhoon.

Airbus explained it as a network-activated system of systems that combines a next-generation fighter jet, a MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) drone, cruise missiles, drone swarms and other aircraft.

The foundation of FCAS will be the Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS), which will include the New Generation Fighter (NGF), remote carriers and the Air Combat Cloud.

FRANCE-TRANSPORT-AVIATION-AIRSHOW-SCAF-FCAS-MODEL-TRAPPIER
Eric Trappier, CEO of the French group Dassault Aviation, poses in front of the full-size model of the FCAS at the Paris Air Show on June 18, 2019.

In 2019, Spain officially joined the Future Combat Air System / Système de Combat Aérien Futur (FCAS / SCAF) program. Margarita Robles, Spanish Minister of Defense, signed the agreement with her French and German counterparts, Florence Parly and Ursula von der Leyen, in Brussels.

In September 2021, Member States announcement to fund phase 1B (2021-2024) with 3.6 billion euros, or 1.2 billion euros each and said that they would continue to work together until the first flight of the prototype of the new sixth generation European fighter be ready.

The development phases of the FCAS program should last from 32 to 40 months, depending on the complexity of each pillar (the program has been divided into 7 main development pillars, distributed among the nations).

Detailed research to define a flight demonstrator is currently underway. Financial negotiations in this regard have been concluded to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.

Pillars of FCAS
Combat air system of the future – Airbus

Phase 2 will take place between 2024 and 2027, culminating in the launch of the first prototype. Phase 2, perhaps the most crucial of the entire program, is expected to cost 5 billion euros and will be divided between the three partners.

The FCAS program is essential to the cooperative defense strategy of these three European countries. Its development has a similar impact on maintaining parity and technological sovereignty with other major world powers.

Will Tempest and FCAS finally merge?

The idea of ​​running two European programs to produce a sixth generation aircraft seems impractical and inefficient. Running two programs in Europe could be a “wrong answer” for the UK and the EU, according to Dirk Howe, former CEO of Airbus Defense and Space.

It would be a repeat of the European mistake of the 90s involving three parallel combat aircraft development projects: Eurofighter, Gripen and Rafale.

Jol Barre, the French director general of armaments, suggested that the future integration of the two programs would be a “positive thing”, and there are many reasons to believe that it is the case.

Both programs meet identical military requirements, and the production of a next-generation fighter is part of a “system of systems” that combines old and new assets.

In addition, the ambitious British program to develop a new generation Tempest aircraft could also face financial problems. According to a report by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the UK’s premier defense think tank, these ambitions may simply not match the funds available for ‘Combat Air’ programs in the UK defense budget.

The report says aligning the UK’s strategic goals with its budgetary resources may require the purchase of more stealth jets in the short term while reallocating the alternately crewed Tempest as a more economical unmanned combat system (drone). long-term. Long-term financial restrictions could force the UK to consider merging two programs.

In addition, the union of Tempest and FCAS / SCAF in a single program would prevent European companies from competing, strengthening their place on the world market and ultimately widening export opportunities.

Since the AUKUS deal was concluded without France’s participation, a merger will ultimately improve France’s global status and reduce Europe’s dependence on the United States.

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