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On 19 December 2022, Airbus Defence and Space announced that on behalf of the governments of France, Germany and Spain, the French General Directorate for Armament (DGA) has awarded Dassault Aviation, Airbus, Indra, Eumet and their industrial partners the contract for the Demonstrator Phase 1B of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). The contract amounts to GBP 3.2 Bn, and will cover work on the FCAS demonstrator and its components for about three and a half years.

FCAS is a European programme aimed at developing a next-generation combat aircraft system to replace current generation fighter jets in the coming decades. It is a joint project between France, Germany, and Spain, and involves a number of major aerospace companies including Dassault Aviation, Airbus, and Indra. The FCAS programme is intended to develop a range of capabilities, including the ability to operate both independently and in conjunction with other military assets, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The project is in the early stages of development, and it is likely that it will take many years before the final product is operational.

Dassault Aviation, Airbus, Indra and Eumet welcomed this step forward that reflects the determination of France, Germany and Spain to develop a fully European weapon system to meet the operational needs of the countries’ armed forces. The contract notification comes on the heels of the signing of industrial agreements supporting the Phase 1B demonstrator by Airbus, Dassault Aviation, Indra and Eumet as prime contractors of the programme and by their industrial partners from the three nations. Discussions held over the last few months have enabled the creation of a solid basis for cooperation between industry and the three governments.

The Phase 1B Demonstrator is a continuation of the Phase 1A research and development (R&D) work, which aims to identify key technologies and develop flying demonstrators. This phase will also allow for the development and maturation of various technologies and the consolidation of project architectures, with the goal of conducting in-flight demonstrations in the next phases of the program by 2028-2029.

The FCAS aircraft system is supposed to consists of several systems, including new generation fighter, remote carrier (also referred to as a ‘loyal wingman’) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and a combat cloud to connects them. The industrial organization for the program is structured around several technological pillars, each of which is led by an industrial champion acting as the prime contractor, working closely with its main partners and leveraging the aeronautical industrial ecosystems of France, Germany, and Spain.

The goal of the FCAS program is to develop a range of advanced capabilities that will enable the aircraft to operate both independently and in conjunction with other military assets, such as UAVs. In addition to their roles in each pillar, Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Indra act as national coordinators to ensure the overall coherence of the demonstrators and the overall programme’s steering and work consolidation. The industrial governance of Phase 1B is organised per domain as follows:

  • NGWS Consistency, Demonstrations and Consolidation with Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Indra Sistemas as co-contracting partners.
  • New Generation Fighter (NGF), with Dassault Aviation for France as prime contractor, and Airbus as main partner for Germany and Spain.
  • NGF Engine with the Eumet 50/50 Joint Venture between Safran Aircraft Engines for France and MTU Aero Engines for Germany as prime contractor, and ITP Aero for Spain as main partner.
  • Unmanned systems, Remote Carrier (RC) with Airbus for Germany as prime contractor, MBDA for France and Satnus for Spain as main partners.
  • Combat Cloud (CC) with Airbus for Germany as prime contractor, Thales for France and Indra Sistemas for Spain as main partners.
  • Simulation with Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Indra Sistemas as co-contracting partners.
  • Sensors with Indra Sistemas as prime for Spain, and Thales for France and FCMS for Germany as main partners.
  • Enhanced Low Observability (stealth) with Airbus as prime contractor for Spain, Dassault Aviation for France and Airbus for Germany as main partners.
  • Common Working Environment with Airbus, Dassault Aviation, Indra Sistemas and Eumet as co-contracting partners.