Sunday , October 17 2021

It's as if in 2001: France and Germany wanted their sixth-generation stealth fighter

On June 17, 2019, French President Emmanuelle Macron took a seat at the Paris-Le Bourget airport at a booth overlooking an airplane surrounded by a silver-gray canvas. At his side were Spain's defense ministers (Margarita Robles), France (Florence Parly), Germany (Ursula van der Leyen), as well as the CEOs of the French aerospace company Dassault and pan-European society. Airbus.

At the right moment, the tarpaulin disappeared to reveal an elegant twin-engine jet that eventually became Europe's first stealth fighter. In the absence of speculative avionics details, the model with no particularity appeared to have been released from a 1990s videogame.

France and Germany officially launched in April 2018 and February 2019. In parallel, the UK launched its sixth generation in July 2018 in partnership with the Italian company Leonardo. Both projects are competing for European partners, although it is not inconceivable that they also participate in a joint project.

It would not be a furtive hunting program if it were not accompanied by a confused hash of generic bad taste acronyms. FCAS (or SCAF in French) is technically a "system of systems", of which the "New Generation Fighter (NGF)" is specifically the component of piloted aircraft. The other two components identified include a family of at least three different types of remote carrier drones and an Air Combat Cloud network linking drones, NGFs, and support assets.

The NGF model contains new ideas. Earlier concepts of the NGF revealed a design with no tail, but the model now has a V-shaped angular tail, reminding Northrop.

Tony Osborne said Aviation week the model would have a length of 15 meters and a size 25 to 33% larger than that of France. In addition, the aircraft would have a maximum takeoff mass of seventy-four thousand pounds of long-retired Mirage IV jet bomber. Together, these elements suggest that the NGF will be designed to carry heavy loads of fuel and weapons, the latter of which will likely be in stealthy internal bays.

With regard to the cell, former British technical liaison officer Jim Smith, "significant exchanges were made with the intention of minimizing signature (radar), at least in the front and side aspects," and " does not seem to be designed to maneuver in mind.

Stealth Jet, Find the Hornet Swarm

FCAS has long considered the association of NGF with drones. At Bourget, at least three different types of Remote Carrier models were on display: an RC100 and an RC200, as well as a large UAV with X-shaped stabilizers developed by Airbus.

The drones are intended to support stealth fighter, serving as platforms for sensors, baits for enemy attacks and air blockers. Drones can be launched from the NGF itself or installed separately by a ship or an Airbus A400M transport aircraft to release payload performance and NGF.

The drones themselves are described as "stealth", designed to merge data from radar and infrared sensors with friendly forces and equipped with advanced artificial intelligence to help identify targets and help pilots make decisions. fast in situations of intense combat.

The FCAS team showed how the NGF connected with remote operators, A400Ms, sea frigates and MRTT A330 tankers / supplies, working together to destroy a "heavily defended enemy air base", deploy 50-km optical guided bombs capable of relocating targets in mid-flight in response to changes in combat scenarios.

Alongside radio-controlled drones, MBDA also evinced an "Active Homicide Protection System," essentially an ammunition designed to neutralize incoming anti-aircraft missiles. This is a different approach than the one that should start to be tested by the US Air Force.

New fantasy engines

As for the engine manufacturers Safran and MTU, they use the "next European fighter engine" to produce 30,000 pounds of thrust and maintain a maintenance temperature of 2100 degrees Celsius without being damaged. The NGF model uncovers supersonic entrances, designed to minimize radar cross-section – similar to those of the F-35.

Smith believes the captures suggest that "the speed can be limited to Mach 1.6," which is the maximum speed of the F-35.

The new engines are likely to be variable cycle turbojets capable of switching between two modes of operation: high drift mode for superior subsonic performance and low drift configuration for superior fuel economy at supersonic speeds. Supposedly, they will also be hybrids for power generation, which could help feed advanced avionics or targeted energy weapons.

MTU will develop the compressors and the low-pressure turbine, while Safran will design the combustion chamber, afterburner and high-pressure turbine. It seems that Safran is also working on a thrust vector motor that could possibly be mounted on the NGF to improve maneuverability, as is the case for the F-22 Raptor turbine fans.

Paths ahead

Countries such as the United States and the United States, which are already operating furtive F-35 lightning aircraft, are searching for sixth-generation fighter aircraft with greater focus on air superiority. However, France and Germany do not plan to buy the F-35, and FCAS seems to reflect the interest of a balanced multi-role fighter, suitable for both air-to-air missions and deep penetration missions. while emphasizing the importance given by the F-35 to the war net.

France also expects the NGF to be adapted to a versatile naval fighter for its aircraft carrier equipped with catapults; effective as a stealth for its nuclear-launched missiles; and capable of expeditionary deployment in African air bases when necessary.

It is important to keep in mind that FCAS and NGF remain strictly at the conceptual stage and that the amounts spent so far have been modest. In January 2019, € 65 million was allocated to help Dassault and Airbus achieve a "common concept".

However, this should change soon as France, Germany and Spain plan to allocate $ 4.5 billion for the aircraft's development phase in late 2019. This should result in a prototype flying in the air. 2026, using the same M88 Rafale turbofans, while the NEFE engine continues its development.

The NGF is expected to enter operational service by 2040, gradually replacing the German typhoon and the Spanish super-drone. The total cost of the program, including purchases and support, could, however, exceed 100 billion euros, according to estimates.

Sébastien Roblin holds a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and a Peace Corps academic instructor in China. He has also worked in the areas of education, assembly and resettlement of refugees in France and the United States. He is currently writing about the security and military history of War Is Boring.

: Flickr

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