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Air Platforms

France and Germany agree next-gen fighter design studies

21 November 2018
The Airbus Next-Generation Fighter concept shown in Berlin in November. Along with concepts from Dassault, this design will help inform the development of demonstrator platforms for the future France–Germany combat aircraft. Source: Airbus via IHS Markit/Gareth Jennings

France and Germany have agreed to progress development of a next-generation combat aircraft, with an announcement on 20 November that both countries are to launch demonstrator design studies next year.

The announcement was made on Twitter by French defence minister Florence Parly, who said the agreement she signed in June with her German counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen, to approve the next-generation combat aircraft project had now been firmed up with a commitment to begin the formal design of aircraft and powerplant demonstrators in 2019.

"In June, France and Germany decided to develop, together, the combat aircraft of the future. [There was a] decisive step today with the agreement to begin the studies of architecture and design and the launch of demonstrators (aircraft and engine) by mid-2019. It's moving!", Parly tweeted.

The June agreement came two months after the project was given the formal go-ahead at the ILA Berlin Airshow in April. Referred to as the New Fighter (NF) or Next-Generation Fighter (NGF), the manned combat aircraft is to be developed to operate in conjunction with a swarm of unmanned 'wingmen' as a next-generation weapon system (NGWS).

This NGWS will form part of a wider future combat air system (FCAS, or Système de Combat Aérien Futur [SCAF]) that will include the European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS); an ultra-low observable (LO) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV); future cruise missiles; and other legacy airborne platforms operating in the future battlespace.

When the project was approved, it was decided that France and Dassault should be the lead nation for the NF/NGF component, with Germany and Airbus taking charge of the other FCAS systems. According to Reuters, French engine manufacturer Safran is to announce a joint venture with Germany's MTU to develop the aircraft's powerplant.

Speaking at the IQPC International Fighter conference in Berlin the week prior to Parly's pronouncement, senior military sources from both countries as well as Spain, which is set to join the effort later this year, said that they are currently engaged in their own national studies, and that these studies will be coalesced into a single solution over the coming years.

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