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Dubai Airshow: FCAS debate comes to the fore at Dubai conference

Posted 17 November 2019 · Add Comment

Both the UK and French Air Force commanders talked about the virtues of their new future combat aircraft systems (FCAS) at the Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference (DIAC) yesterday.

The UK is partnering with Sweden and Italy on its Tempest programme, while France is working with Germany and Spain on a new generation fighter (NGF).

The Royal Air Force’s chief of air staff, Mike Wigston, said: “The UK continues to be the leading spender of defence in Europe – second only to the US in NATO. I’m determined to leverage that investment to ensure the RAF delivers the cutting edge of aerospace in operations at home and abroad and, of course, as part of NATO.”

Tempest will form much of the future strategy and the commander said he would not accept long lead-in times and high costs. He wanted adaptability, to give a balance between sensors and systems on manned and unmanned systems, both live and synthetic.

“Tempest is more than just another combat aircraft upgrade – it will be a system of systems and adaptable for the most testing of times when it comes.” 

Typhoon is playing a big part of the Tempest project, just as the Rafale is for the NGF.  Wigston added: “I’m driving my team to deliver Tempest by 2035, an ambitious target but needed strategically. Typhoon development will act as a technology test-bed – with its weapons systems and defensive aids still remaining the backbone of the RAF through to 2040. 

“We were the first to field the Meteor BVRAAM on Typhoon, the first to integrate the Brimstone air-to-surface missile, while turning the Typhoon into a genuine strategic capability with the integration of the Storm Shadow. The FCAS will ensure the RAF’s ability to defeat the enemy in years to come.” 

French Air Force commander, General Phillipe Lavigne, spoke more on the theoretical side of the NGF, and told the audience the new Rafale F4 version (in service between 2023 and 2026) would act as the first breed of future combat aircraft.

It will be followed by the Rafale F5 between 2030-2040 and, possibly, a Rafale F6 with the NGF expected to be in service by 2040.


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