Partners break FCAS/SCAF demonstrator deadlock

by Gareth Jennings

An artist's impression of the New Generation Fighter and Remote Carrier loyal wingmen that sit at the heart of the Next-Generation Weapon System element of the Future Combat Air System. (Airbus)

The national partners heading up the trinational Future Combat Air System (FCAS)/Système de Combat Aérien du Futur (SCAF) have broken the deadlock surrounding the demonstrator phase of the project.

The governments of France, Germany, and Spain issued statements on 18 November heralding the breakthrough in industrial workshare negotiations that had stalled Phase 1B of the project since the beginning of the year, and noting the imminent conclusion of a contract.

In separate statements, the governments noted the imminent conclusion of Phase 1B negotiations related to development of the New Generation Fighter (NGF) element that, along with Remote Carrier (RC) loyal wingmen and Air Combat Cloud (ACC) network, make up the Next-Generation Weapon System (NGWS) element of FCAS/SCAF. The upcoming signing of the industrial agreement will clear the path ahead for the continuation of the project that had been threatened by a workshare dispute between France's Dassault and Germany's Airbus in particular, with Spain's Indra caught in the middle.

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Canadian MQ-9 Reaper operational capability delayed to 2028

by Zach Rosenberg

One of the two MQ-9A Block 5-15 air vehicles currently operating with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1). The accompanying artist's rendering shows an MQ-9A Block 5-25 in VMU-1 colours. The SkyTower ANE pod is carried beneath the MQ-9A's left wing on stores station 2. (NAVAIR)

Canada's planned purchase of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper under the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) programme has been delayed from 2025 to 2028, the country's Department of National Defence (DND) told Janes on 27 November.

GA-ASI was the sole respondent to a solicitation issued in February 2022. Although the DND intends to sign a contract worth up to CAD5 billion (USD3.7 billion) with GA-ASI in fiscal year (FY) 2023 (which ends in calendar year March 2024), MQ-9's initial operational capability (IOC) qualification is delayed from FY 2025–26 to FY 2028 citing a need for additional development work.

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US DoD Inspector General recommends delay for US Navy MQ-25A purchase

by Zach Rosenberg

Boeing MQ-25A Stingray test aircraft T1 refuels an F/A-18 Super Hornet in June 2021. The first engineering, manufacturing, and development aircraft is scheduled to be delivered to the US Navy in FY 2025. (US Navy)

A report by the US Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) recommended a delay to the US Navy's (USN's) Boeing MQ-25A Stingray purchase.

The report, released on 20 November, found that the USN's schedule includes making a Milestone C decision or certifying that the programme can move from engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) into low-rate initial production (LRIP), before completing developmental testing, and declaring initial operational capability (IOC) before completing operational testing.

Though the USN wants to deploy the MQ-25A as soon as practical, “making critical production decisions without conducting sufficient testing introduces additional risk that the MQ‑25 program will not meet its operational capability requirements, which could require costly and time‑consuming engineering changes and may delay the MQ‑25A's deployment”, wrote the IG. “Therefore, Navy officials should either delay the [Milestone C] and IOC decisions until the program office can conduct sufficient tests and evaluations” or update its risk calculus accordingly.

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Airbus completes Auto'Mate autonomous aerial refuelling tests

by Gareth Jennings

Airbus demonstrated its Auto'Mate A4R autonomous aerial refuelling of drones using an A310 MRTT and DT-25 target drone UAVs during two trials in March. The test campaign has now been completed. (Airbus)

Airbus Defence and Space has completed trials of its autonomous air-to-air refuelling (AAR) of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the company announced on 22 November.

Trials that were launched in March involved a modified A310 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft and DT-25 target drone UAVs. Designated Auto'Mate, the autonomous AAR is the first step towards Autonomous Assets Air-to-Air Refuelling (A4R) and Autonomous Formation Flight (AF2) capabilities for tankers using technologies developed by Airbus UpNext.

“Auto'Mate successfully completes the second and final flight-test campaign. Airbus, for the first time ever, tested the technologies for autonomous air-to-air refuelling based on controlling and guiding multiple drones from Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft,” the company said.

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The national partners heading up the trinational Future Combat Air System (FCAS)/Système de Combat A...

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