Three Nation Next-Gen Fighter Programme launched at Paris Airshow
Europe wants to be less dependent on the US for its future fighter aircraft and other strategic weapons, hence today three nations – France, Germany and Spain – came together and signed an agreement to design and develop the next generation fighter aircraft. The Ministers of Defence of these three countries signed the agreement in the presence of the French President, Emmanuel Macron.
In 2017, the French President, Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had come up with a plan to launch a next-gen fighter programme. The plan got formal sanction today when Spain became the third country to join the programme and an agreement to that effect was signed at the 53 rd edition of the Paris International Airshow.
Last year at the Farnborough Airshow, the United Kingdom unveiled plans of a sixth-generation fighter aircraft called ‘The Tempest’. And today, France, Germany and Spain signed an agreement for building the Future Air Combat System (FCAS). The model of the NGF was unveiled by Macron, who was accompanied by the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly. She said “In 2040, the French Armed Forces will be equipped with a combat aircraft, built between Europeans, to face the fights of tomorrow. This is historical and that’s just the beginning.” The NGF is set to replace Dassault Aviation’s Rafale and the German Eurofighter. The first prototype is slated for 2026 and take to the skies by 2040.
It was in July 2017 that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Macron had announced the development of the fighter system and a new battle tank. Airbus, Safran and MTU Aero Engines will be partners in the programme which is expected to have an initial investment of Euro 4 billion by 2025. France is expected to invest Euro 2.5 billion of that. The programme is intended to reduce Europe’s dependence on US equipment.
The NGF will have include a range of weapons including unmanned aerial systems, surveillance and command aircraft, cruise missiles, satellites and ground stations. As per the agreement signed today, each country is free to export, unless there is an ‘overriding reason of sovereignty or security.”
Boeing Defense looking at 2.5 trillion dollar business in the next decade
The CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, Leanne Caret today announced at the Paris Air show that the defence, space and security market would be 2.5 trillion dollars over the next 10 years, with a modest improvement of 1.2 per cent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR).
At the Boeing press conference, Ms Leanne Caret said that the company bottom line was safety, quality and integrity and that it would keep the international market into confidence on all the issues. The defence, space and security segment got nearly 60 per cent of its business from the USA, the rest coming from Europe, the Middle East and Indo-Pacific region. The focus would continue on P8, Apache, Chinook and F15 aircraft for both the US and international markets.
Coming to the air show per se, she mentioned that the Boeing KC-46A tanker made its air show debut here. The aircraft on static display is from the US Air Force’s 931st Refueling Wing, based at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas. Asked about the problems facing the KC-46 project, she said that there were technical issues and the company was serious about it as these issues should not have happened. There were issues involving foreign object debris which led to the deliveries being halted twice. “These are unacceptable and they will not happen again,” she assured the industry.
She stated that there were deliveries due to the USAF but did not reveal what the contract was.
Caret also announced that soon the Crew Space Transportation (CST) – 100 Starliner spacecraft would be launched. This was in collaboration with NASA’s commercial crew program. The Starliner is designed to accommodate seven passengers, or a mix of crew and cargo, for missions to low-Earth orbit. For NASA service missions to the International Space Station, it will carry up to four NASA-sponsored crew members and time-critical scientific research. The Starliner has an innovative, weldless structure and is reusable up to 10 times with six-month turnaround time. It also features wireless internet and tablet technology for crew interfaces.
Raytheon’s StormBreaker kills moving targets in adverse weather
Raytheon Company’s StormBreaker weapon has completed all operational test drops, moving it closer to initial operational capability. The StormBreaker tri-mode seeker uses imaging infrared and millimetre wave radar in its normal mode to give pilots the ability to destroy moving targets, even in adverse weather, from standoff ranges. Additionally, the weapon can use its semi-active laser guidance to hit targets.
“All operating modes of StormBreaker have been rigorously tested in operationally relevant scenarios against real-world targets in environments that are similar to actual battlefield conditions,” said Kim Ernzen, Raytheon Air Warfare Systems Vice President. “With its tri-mode seeker and datalink, this smart weapon will close a capability gap and make adverse weather irrelevant,” she said. Operational testing is complete and early stages of StormBreaker integration work are underway.
Poor weather and battlefield obscurants continue to endanger warfighters as adversaries rely on these conditions to escape attacks. This has established the requirement for an all-weather solution that enhances warfighters’ capabilities when visibility is limited. The StormBreaker smart weapon, a Raytheon program for the US Air Force, will provide this capability to the warfighter.
The Director of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, Thomas Quast said that Raytheon’s New Gen Jammer mid-band provided innovative airborne electronic attack and jamming capabilities. Increasingly complex threats require an airborne electronic attack to be more sophisticated than ever, providing greater precision, power, reactive speed and directivity. Raytheon's NGJ-MB integrates the most advanced electronic attack technology into the EA-18G to ensure superior mission performance.
“Built with a combination of high-powered, agile beam-jamming techniques, and cutting-edge solid-state electronics, our NGJ-MB systems will meet the U.S. Navy's current mission needs while providing a cost-effective open systems architecture for future upgrades. The proven expertise we bring to the NGJ-MB effort will yield a low-risk, highly reliable baseline solution with opportunities for growth on additional manned and unmanned platforms.”
Building on a strong history of creating and integrating advanced solutions for the warfighter, Raytheon's NGJ-MB effort will produce the most reliable, dependable and affordable system to deny, degrade and disrupt threats while protecting U.S. and coalition forces.
He said Raytheon's active electronically scanned array systems, with game-changing performance and tactical advantages, are the cornerstone of current and future aircraft. Providing incomparable detection, targeting, tracking, and self-protection capabilities, our AESA systems are yet another hallmark in our evolving development of innovative radars in support of the warfighter. The Raytheon AESA radar family may be tailored to fit any platform's size, space and requirements.
Turkey’s first indigenously developed combat aircraft soon
Turkish Aerospace Industries is developing the TF-X National Combat Aircraft with an aim to replace the US built F-16 aircraft. According to the TAI General Manager, Temel Kotil the jet is on schedule to make its maiden flight in 2025. TAI has been stating the fifth generation jet had features similar to the F-35 jet of Lockheed Martin. It is expected to have its first flight in 2025.
With this development, Turkey is among the top countries that have already built fifth generation fighter. The other countries which have the capabilities are the US, Russia and China. The aircraft has new generation features including low visibility, internal gun housing, high maneuverability, increased situational awareness and sensor fusion.
* Chandrakanth is a Bengaluru based independent journalist, reporting from PAS.