French President Emmanuel Macron and the defense ministers of Germany, France and Spain unveiled the sculpture of a sixth-generation fighter plane at Le Bourget airport in Paris. The Future Air Combat System (FCAS) is at the center of European air armament. In 20 years it should become the core of the European air forces.
In fact, it is not a replica of the future jet fighter, the Future Air Combat System is far from ready to present a blueprint. The sculpture was built to show something of prestige to the political celebrities. It only takes up general forms of a military aircraft. And while they were at it, they also created a flock of unmanned drones to accompany the fighter.
Backdrop for framework agreement
Defense Ministers Ursula von der Leyen and Florence Parly signed a framework agreement in Paris setting out the basic rules for the cooperation project and an implementation agreement for the first phase of the study. Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles then joined the agreement. The interest of Spain is a good sign for the project, after the British partner was lost earlier this year.
Read more about this: Ambitious or crazy? Merkel and Macron are planning a new fighter jet
The first demonstrators are set to take off in 2026, according to Dirk Hoke, head of the Airbus armaments division. Together with Dassault boss Eric Trappier he said that the fighter will have stealth caps. "Stealth properties are among our main goals." Also in the model, the weapons were mounted inboard to keep the radar shadow small.
The Fighter of the sixth generation is said to be far more than a mere replacement for the French Rafale and the German Eurofighter, with him the European aviation industry wants to get into the stealth technology for the first time. In addition to the FCAS jet whole swarms of unmanned drones join, including the latest rockets, which are connected via a sophisticated command and control network.
Of all this, nothing currently exists in Europe. The FCAS project sounds like a giant leap forward, and in the end, Europeans only want to build on technologies that the US will introduce much sooner with the F-35 and the B-21 bombers. In terms of combat aircraft and avionics, Russia is anything but retrograde. However, looking at the difficulties encountered in developing the Russian stealth jet Sukhoi Su-57, it is unlikely that the European project will run smoothly. Rather, one should expect massive delays and cost increases.
The US is far ahead
The European fighter encounters several problems, all of which can be attributed to the late start of the project. This is most evident on the F-35. Although the F-35 is still plagued by teething troubles, it can be expected that the American jet will reach full operational readiness before even a Future Air Combat System demonstrator will fly. Then the F-35 can boast a clear and verifiable performance profile that will deliver on order, while FCAS can only make promises for a distant future.
Last but not least, US President Trump sees himself as the first aircraft salesman and uses his power consistently to promote the sale of the fighter. With success, in addition, the increasing production quantities make the F-35 always cheaper. The aggressive sales policy of the Trump government has resulted in the price of the F-35 already falling 25 percent from its peak.
How stealth is stealth in 2040?
The second problem is the stealth technique itself. Anyone designing a jet like the FCAS today assumes that even in 2040 it will not be possible to detect aircraft with a small radar shadow. Invisible these jets are not. China and Russia – the rival powers to the US – are constantly working on ways to track these aircraft in ways other than conventional radar. Both countries claim that they have already succeeded. For example, Russia's S-400 defense system is already targeting stealth jets.
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Ambitious or crazy? Merkel and Macron are planning a new fighter jet