The twin requirements of air superiority and nuclear deterrence are driving France’s development of a manned next-generation fighter aircraft as part of a wider Future Combat Air System (FCAS), a senior French Air Force (Armee de L’Air: AdeLA) officer said on 15 November.
Speaking at the IQPC International Fighter Conference in Berlin, Major General Jean-Pascal Breton, programme lead FCAS, said that the performance and political needs of those two mission sets in particular have informed the conceptual decision that the Next-Generation Fighter (NGF) will have an onboard pilot, although the option remains for it to be unmanned in the future.
“Our first priorities for the future fighter are air superiority and deterrence, and these are the drivers for a manned aircraft at the core of the FCAS system-of-systems,” Gen Breton said. “On the question of a manned or an unmanned aircraft, we have determined that due to our missions we need something that is very close to a conventional combat aircraft. Even if you think artificial intelligence [AI] is performing or not, we trust that in the future there will still be manned aircraft and so this will be the core of the system-of-systems – it will be survivable, supersonic, and manoeuvrable.”
With NGF comprising the fighter element of the system-of-systems, the Next-Generation Weapon System (NGWS) comprises the NGF and unmanned ‘wingmen’, while the wider FCAS comprises the NGWS and all other air assets in the future operational battlespace.
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