Following the agreement announced earlier this year at the Farnborough Air Show, Dassault Aviation, BAE Systems, and their industrial partners have been awarded a €150 million ($187 million) contract by the French and U.K. governments for a two year co-operative Future Combat Air System (FCAS) Feasibility Phase study, formally signaling the start of work on next-generation unmanned aircraft. This is the first step toward what could become a full demonstration program that has the potential to “shape the future of combat aerospace in Europe.”
According to Ian King, CEO of BAE Systems, “The Feasibility Phase will allow U.K. and French industry to work closely together and provide a strong foundation for a potential follow-on FCAS demonstration program.” The joint study contract will be supplemented with additional French and U.K. national funding to the combined value of €100 million ($125 million) in the same period.
The two-year study will build the foundations on which a long-term joint program will be based by focusing on the development of concepts for an operational system, and the maturation of key technologies that will be required for a future operational unmanned combat air system (UCAS), while supporting both governments’ desires for closer defense ties.
“We welcome this new step, which prepares [for] the future of both manned and unmanned combat air systems,” said Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.
Following the completion of the study at the end of 2016, work could then start on a UCAS demonstration development program that addresses both nations’ future military requirements via the building of an actual aircraft.
The Feasibility Phase is expected to help sustain hundreds of highly skilled jobs at Dassault and BAE, as well as at Rolls-Royce, Selex ES, Snecma, Thales, and various SME's involved in the program.