British Tempest, Franco-German FCAS could eventually merge into a single European fighter jet program – Italy


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

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

He also stressed that the two programs were still in their “conceptual phase”, so it was a matter of course for any government to evaluate the technological possibilities during this time.

A concept of the Tempest Fighter (BAE Systems picture)

According to Reuters, General Luca Goretti reportedly informed the country’s parliamentary defense committee: “It is natural that these two realities merge into one. ”It is not the first time that proposals have been made to combine the two projects.

Previously, the Lieutenant General of the German Air Force, Ingo Gerhartz, had tried to bring the two competing plans together in consultation with his Italian and British colleagues. He said: “It is conceivable that we are on different paths. Hopefully we can integrate in the future. “

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

General Luca Goretti also pointed out that Rome could act as a link between NATO and Europe while members of the European Union discuss how to improve defense cooperation without undermining ties with NATO.

The British Storm

The Tempest program was unveiled at Farnborough Air Show 2018, where a full-size concept model was showcased. BAE Systems is currently leading the Tempest program, which aims to develop a sixth generation system of systems air combat capability.

This program has received an initial investment of £ 2 billion (US $ 2.6 billion) with Italy and Sweden joining as partners through Leonardo and Saab.

The focus of the program will be the Tempest fighter jet. It will most likely be a manned / optionally unmanned aircraft with a number of essential technologies including a multifunction radar frequency system and a “portable cockpit”.

The British Government explained In 2020, seven more organizations had joined the program, bringing the total number of employees working on Team Tempest to 2,500 by 2021.

Despite the fact that Britain sourced Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets from the United States, the joint combat program does not benefit the UK’s domestic defense industry.

The UK originally planned to purchase 138 F-35s, but that number is now lowered to 48. Over the past two years, experts have been researching ways to replace them or at least operate in conjunction with other modern aircraft.

F-35B fighter planes make maiden landings aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth
F-35B fighter planes make maiden landings aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth -RAF

Earlier, Air Marshal Richard Knighton, Deputy Chief of Defense Staff, said that after the delivery of the current 48 F-35s, the country would not plant more until after 2025. Knighton also admitted that more than 48 jets would be needed.

“Tempest is one of the UK’s most ambitious technology initiatives,” said a opinion from the UK Ministry of Defense. “Tempest is set to deliver a sophisticated, adaptive combat air system that will be brought into service in the mid-2030s.”

As already mentioned, the new one Multifunction radar frequency system, which the aerospace company Leonardo is developing exclusively for the Tempest, is one of the most promising technologies that the Tempest will be equipped with.

In addition, Rolls Royce is working on a new drive system that can withstand more heat than previous engines.

An infographic that outlines the basic goals of the Tempest program

The possibility of seamless drone compatibility is also being considered. The Tempest is said to be powered by its own swarm of drones, much like the U.S. Air Force’s Skyborg program, Australia’s and Boeing’s Loyal Wingman, or Russia’s recent efforts to combine their Su-57 with the Hunter UCAV.

European FCAS

The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) / Système de Combat Aérien Futur (SCAF) is a stealth fighter aircraft of the 6th Typhoon.

Airbus declared it as a networkable system of systems combining a new generation fighter aircraft, a MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) drone, cruise missiles, swarms of drones and other aircraft.

The basis 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.

The French company Dassault Aviation Chief Executive Eric Trappier poses in front of the scale model of the FCAS at the Paris Air Show on June 18, 2019.

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

In September 2021, the member states will announced Fund Phase 1B (2021-2024) with 3.6 billion euros and 1.2 billion euros respectively and stated that they will continue to work together until the first flight of the prototype of the new European sixth generation fighter aircraft.

The development phases of the FCAS program are expected to last 32 to 40 months, depending on the complexity of each pillar (the program has been broken down into 7 main development pillars, which have been divided among the nations).

Detailed research to define a flight demonstrator is currently underway. The related financial negotiations have been concluded to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

FCAS pillars
Future combat air system – Airbus

Phase 2 takes place between 2024 and 2027 and leads to the market launch of the first prototype. Phase 2, possibly the most important of the entire program, is expected to cost 5 billion euros and will be shared among the three partners.

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

Will Tempest and FCAS merge at some point?

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

This would be a repetition of Europe’s mistake in the 1990s, which included three parallel fighter aircraft development projects: Eurofighter, Gripen and Rafale.

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

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

Additionally, the UK’s ambitious program to develop the next-generation Tempest aircraft could also face financial problems. According to a report from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the UK’s leading defense think tank, these ambitions may simply not match the budget allocated to combat air programs in the UK.

The report says that aligning the UK’s strategic goals with its budget could require buying more stealth jets in the short term, while the alternatively manned Tempest may need to be repurposed as a more economical unmanned (drone) combat system in the long run. Long-term financial restrictions could force the UK to consider merging two programs.

In addition, merging Tempest and FCAS / SCAF into a single program would prevent European companies from competing with one another, strengthening their place in the world market and ultimately expanding export opportunities.

Since the AUKUS agreement came about without the participation of France, a merger will ultimately improve France’s global position and reduce Europe’s dependence on the USA.


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