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Confronting an Unpredictable Future

FCAS – An Incremental Journey

In a world of growing and unpredictable threats, the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS), will deliver increasing operational effects by leveraging the collective capabilities of connected manned and unmanned platforms, bringing the next level of air power to highly denied environments, Airbus Defense and Space suggested in a statement issued on 25 June.

At the heart of FCAS, manned New Generation Fighters (NGF), teaming with unmanned Remote Carriers (RC) as force multipliers will form the Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS). Various national platforms will supplement the NGWS in a collaborative approach by adding their unique capabilities. Such a ‘system of systems’ approach will reach beyond the air domain by including sea, land, space and cyber. The Air Combat Cloud will enable seamless collaborative combat across domains, by leveraging the connected capabilities of pooled platforms.

Such a vision for FCAS entails doctrinal and technological challenges, as European air forces and navies will benefit operationally from new capabilities as they gradually arrive. This will require a two-fold coordinated approach: services need to change the way they operate and industry must develop the required new technologies. This will require time. By progressively providing FCAS capabilities, European air forces and navies will be able to meet the growing threats they face.

An incremental roll-out of FCAS capabilities is already planned, with initial situational awareness across platform capabilities in the mid-2020s. This will be followed by manned-unmanned teaming between upgraded existing fighters such as the Eurofighter LTE and first-generation RC in the early 2030s, before achieving the full FCAS vision in 2040 with the NGWS as its core.

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