The defense ministers of France (Florence Parly) and Germany (Ursula von der Leyen) announced two contracts on February 6 that help lay the groundwork for the future sixth-generation jet fighter, a project that forms one element of their broader Future Combat Air System (FCAS) concept.
The first contract involves a EUR65 million ($74 million) two-year architecture and concept study awarded to Airbus and Dassault that will define FCAS and its necessary components.
The second contract covers an industrial cooperation agreement between French and German engine makers Safran and MTU that will see the two manufacturers launch development of a new propulsion system for the future combat aircraft. The French and German governments intend to sign a contract for the engine demonstrator later in the year.
At the center of the FCAS is the New Generation Fighter (NGF). This manned aircraft is expected to be a sixth-generation fighter that will ultimately replace the lead combat aircraft in the French, German and possibly Spanish air forces (the Rafale and the Eurofighter) beginning around 2040. It will be capable of both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions.
The NGF is to operate in conjunction with a swarm of drones that will serve as both weapons platforms and advanced sensors. The NGF and FCAS, which are to function together, are collectively referred to as the Next-Generation Weapon System (NGWS).
The NGWS will fit into the aforementioned FCAS, a large, networked range of systems. The FCAS will include the European Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), an ultra-low-observable combat drone, future cruise missiles, and other airborne platforms operating together in future operations scenarios through a common software architecture.