Air Platforms

Luftwaffe sets out design drivers for next-generation fighter

14 November 2018

With a planned in-service date in the 2040s, the Next-Generation Weapon System forms the optionally piloted component of the Franco-German Future Combat Air System. Source: Airbus

The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) has spelled out some of the requirements, capabilities, threats, and limitations that are driving the design of its future fighter aircraft for the 2040 timeframe.

Speaking at the IQPC International Fighter Conference in Berlin, Brigadier General Gerald Funke, head of division Strategic Defence Planning and Concepts at the Federal Ministry of Defence, said that, while prediction of the future is difficult and often raises more questions than answers, the Luftwaffe already has an idea of the trends and technologies that will inform development of the future fighter aircraft that Germany is to build with France.

“We would be foolish to base our design on current knowledge, [as it will need to incorporate] future potential game changers,” Gen Funke said on 14 November, adding, “We have taken first steps towards the FCAS [Future Combat Air System] with the French taking the lead, and we are both now working on a common design concept and architectural study. In terms of the basic design requirements, a system-of-systems will be the key characteristic, but the list [of requirements] is not complete and is a living document.”

FCAS (referred to as Système de Combat Aérien Futur [SCAF] by the French) comprises the system-of-systems that will include the next-generation fighter as well as legacy fighters and all other airborne assets in the future operational environment. The new fighter itself has been named the Next-Generation Weapon System (NGWS). Previously, it was known as New Fighter.

“The Next-Generation Weapon System will be an optionally manned fighter with unmanned components, what we call remote carriers,” Gen Funke said, noting, “This does not imply that the fighter crew will be operating the unmanned aircraft, this will be done autonomously using data provided by the fighter [or from the ground].”

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