News of the agreement “European fighter of the future” in five questions. Last Minute GERMANY, Belgium, Berlin, France, England, Spain, Russia headlines and events
France, Germany and Spain are embarking on the next stage of development of the “SCAF fighter of the future” (Systeme de Combat Aerien du Futur – Future Air Combat System) with an estimated cost of more than 100 billion euros and is considered the largest defense project in Europe. The project’s industrial partners, Dassault Aviation, are seeking to replace Dassault’s French Rafale and Airbus’ German-Spanish Eurofighters, under an agreement reached by the Airbus Defense and Space and Indra groups.
The SCAF project is a project launched in 2017 by French President Emmanuel Macron and later by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at a time when the UK left the EU and a refugee crisis arose. Negotiations on the project, which has long been a source of tension between manufacturers and Germany and France, have stalled since April.
Last month, Emmanuel Macron canceled a meeting of the Franco-German cabinet due to disagreements with Berlin on a number of issues, including defense and energy projects. Then German Chancellor Olaf Scholz came to Paris and discussed the documents creating the crisis.
The basis of the contention is the exchange of knowledge and technology. The French firm Dassault has also sought to be involved in the development of the ordering system from the outset, drawing on its experience in competing Airbus, Eurofighter and commercial aircraft, even as the prime contractor for the aircraft. But aviation giant Dassault fears that sharing certain technologies will prove fatal in the long run and that a major European consortium will take over Dassault, the family business.
“There will be no national SCAF,” Airbus boss Guillaume Faury told Le Monde in April when negotiations stalled! No European country, whether engineering or financial, has the ability to produce such an aircraft alone. For this reason, we bear a historic responsibility” and called for reconciliation.
This thesis, supported by Germany, is also supported by many experts and pilots who “fear that the termination of SCAF activities will lead to a technological pause in Europe.”
First application from Germany
The first announcement about the transition to the next phase of the SCAF project, which has been at an impasse for a long time, came from the German Ministry of Defense. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said: “After intensive negotiations, the political agreement on SCAF is an important step forward and an important sign of excellent Franco-German-Spanish cooperation, especially in today’s context. The agreement strengthens the military capabilities of Europe, not only for our industry, but also for our industry, and also guarantees important know-how for European industry.”
After Berlin, the Élysée’s announcement of the agreement only expressed satisfaction with the agreement and stated that “The SCAF project is a big step forward.” “This is an important sign of the excellent cooperation between France, Germany and Spain, especially in the current international context,” the statement said. The project’s contractor, Dassault Aviation, chose to remain silent on the announcement of the agreement.
Opinion writer Jean-Dominique Merchet, an expert geopolitics and defense journalist, said in an article on the subject on Sunday that not all steps have been taken yet, especially in a project that Germany has declared a “great compromise”. the project was suspended due to disagreements between Airbus and Dassault for several months, and now He points out that Germany made such a statement. Mersche, on the French side, the Ministry of Defense is not involved and discovers the case almost by accident. However, Elysee responded belatedly, giving AFP a simple explanation. However, he pointed to the difference between the two capitals, stating that the deal was not done but “close to being done”. Mersche said: “No agreement was signed between the two companies on Friday! According to the information we have received, it will probably be signed on Wednesday or Thursday, unless there is a last-minute failure. This communication failure is another problem. This is shown by the fact that Paris and Berlin are currently experiencing great difficulty in communicating with each other: “Such an announcement in a major program can only be made in a coordinated manner and with a minimum of regulation between governments and industrialists.”
What is the SCAF agreement? And more importantly, what are the chances of realizing it? How will the production process take place? Here is the SCAF project in 5 questions:
1- What is a scaffold?
SCAF is not just an aircraft, it is a gigantic system consisting of nine “technological pillars”, including unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and capable of communicating with each other. The system is built around a “next generation fighter” equipped with a variety of next generation weapons and drone crews. It is also assumed that the aircraft will be connected with other combat vehicles (ground, air and sea) participating in the operation through a “combat cloud”.
2- 6th generation “Ghost” What is an airplane?
The Next Generation Fighter (NGF) is the sixth generation aircraft. It is intended to gradually replace the Rafales used in France since 2040 and the Eurofighters in the German-Spanish partnership. The aircraft of the 6th generation will be invisible, that is, it will not be able to detect radars and satellites.
They will also be connected to the military cloud system, allowing them to “control a squadron of drones for reconnaissance” or “attack” from a control center. For this, a specially equipped cabin will be created. These devices will also have the ability to perform programmed maneuvers without human assistance. Some tasks can even be controlled by remote control or artificial intelligence.
Emmanuel Chiva, director general of the armaments department of the French Defense Innovation Agency, unveiled a prototype of the 6th generation defense aircraft last year.
3- What is the cost of the project?
The SCAF program includes a cost of 100 billion euros. France and Germany included Spain in 2019 to be able to fund this costly project. The three countries have signed a €3.6 billion contract to build a demonstration platform in 2021.
The French Ministry of Defense said in 2019 that other European countries want to join the trio. According to the Belgian business newspaper L’Echo, the Brussels government applied for the project under pressure from the aviation industry. However, according to Belgian media reports, Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of French Rafale fighter jets, closed its doors to the Belgians after Brussels bought American F-35s.
However, they did not show the same attitude towards Germany, signing an agreement with the American Lockheed Martin on the purchase of 35 F-35s. In addition, not only Germany, but also 11 European countries ordered to equip their defense forces with American combat aircraft.
4- What is the calendar and production organization?
The project, signed by Macron and Merkel in 2017, is expected to be launched in 2040. However, when the program was first signed, it was assumed that production would begin in 2025, and the first 6th generation fighter of the new type would take to the air in 2027. However, in the latest trilateral agreement, an industrial organization was created with the delivery of the first aircraft in 2040.
Experts say they are not sure that this time will be enough. Dassault Aviation boss Eric Trappier said at least another 10 years is needed and that the first planes could be delivered in 2050, when their disagreements with Airbus are at their worst. However, Trappier later corrected these statements and made statements moving towards 2040, stating that the pace needed to be picked up to catch up.
Regarding the organization of the project, research and technology studies organized in 5 separate stages will be accelerated, and an industry leader and a main industry partner will be identified for each stage of the project. Dassault Aviation, next generation combat aircraft project contractor; Airbus D&S will be responsible for other facilities. Germany will pilot the drone design with the French MBDA and the German Satnus, as well as the Cloud of War program with Thales and Indra. Spain will be interested in developing “privacy technologies”. The sensors will be manufactured under the responsibility of Indra in cooperation with Thales and German FCMS. The engines for the aircraft will be developed by Eumet, a joint venture between France’s Safran, Germany’s MTU and Spain’s ITP.
5- Who is SCAF’s competitor?
The SCAF project has many competitors even in Europe. Many countries on the continent and around the world have joined forces with England, Italy and Sweden to develop the FCAS (Future Air Combat System) Tempest. London announced last July that the first demonstrator would be ready to fly in 5 years. According to the British Ministry of Defense, Tempest aircraft will equip the Royal Air Force from 2035.
Unlike European manufacturers, China, the USA, India, Japan, Taiwan and Russia are working on new-generation combat aircraft. There is a continuous military-technological race, and in fact, a fierce information war between manufacturing states. Each country is cautious about the project it wants to create and publishes announcements that cannot be verified because they are protected by military secrets. For example, in 2020, America announced that it was testing a NGAD (Next Generation Air Dominance) demo product.
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