Paris Air Show

Dassault/Airbus Next-gen Fighter Gets Lift from Spain

 - June 17, 2019, 8:56 AM

Amid considerable fanfare, the full-scale mock-up of the Dassault/Airbus New Generation Fighter (NGF) was revealed in front of French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday at the Paris Air Show. Following the unveiling, Florence Parly, Ursula von der Leyen, and Margarita Robles—respectively the defense ministers of France, Germany, and Spain—signed documents that formally welcomed Spain into the program, following on from an announcement of intent in February.

NGF is the major manned element of the Système de Combat Aerien du Futur (SCAF) program that seeks to develop a "system of systems" that meets European airpower needs from around 2040. Intended to produce a sixth-generation capability to replace the current Typhoon and Rafale fleets, the SCAF project—also termed Future Combat Air System (FCAS)—was first agreed as a Franco-German program in July 2017. To answer French needs, the NGF will be carrier-capable.

During the same ceremony at the show, Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Eric Trappier and Airbus Defence and Space CEO Dirk Hoke formally submitted a joint industrial proposal for the first demonstration phase of SCAF. This covers the period from this year to mid-2021.

The New Generation Fighter’s cockpit will explore unique new display configurations. (Photo: David McIntosh)

In addition to the NGF, the SCAF program includes unmanned remote carrier platforms that act as “loyal wingman” force-multipliers, and an air combat cloud network. The integration of legacy assets is also included as part of the overall SCAF program. A contract is expected in the fourth quarter and demonstrators are planned to fly by 2026.

Dassault and Airbus will design and build the NGF, with Dassault acting as design lead, while Airbus is heading the remote carrier and air combat cloud efforts. Other industry partners, such as Thales and MBDA, are playing a key part in the development effort. MBDA, for instance, is studying a range of weapons and small remote carriers for SCAF applications, one of which is being displayed alongside the NGF mockup. Airbus also unveiled a larger remote carrier design alongside the NGF.

In parallel, engine makers Safran and MTU are developing an engine for the NGF. A model being displayed this week by Safran shows a thrust-vectoring design. A notional future fighter cockpit screen and head-worn system are also being demonstrated at Le Bourget as part of the French defense ministry’s display.

Following on from the two-year, €65 million joint concept study contract awarded to Dassault and Airbus in January, the submitted industrial proposal covers various teaming agreements and a defined plan for the demonstration phase. Working processes and commercial agreements are also outlined, as is the transparent and fair handling of intellectual property rights. France’s Direction Générale de l’Armament is the contracting agency.