By Wei Wei and Wu Jian
The 53rd Paris Air Show kicked off at Le Bourget Airport in the northern suburb of Paris on June 17. As the world's largest air show, the Paris Air Show has been capturing global attention for its concentrated demonstration of the latest aviation technology developments around the world.
The Franco-German Axis and the UK Brexit
Being highly capital and technology-intensive, the aviation and aerospace industries are trying hard to avoid "division". Somehow Europe will bear the brunt of this round of division.
The so-called Future Combat Air System (FCAS, or SCAF according to German Defense Ministry) has been the biggest star of Paris Air Show 2019, a joint defense program launched by France and Germany, and commonly known as the "6th Generation Fighter of Europe". FCAS will replace the 4th generation fighters currently in service in Europe as well as the recently commissioned 5th generation.
"We take this great challenge for the future of European combat air systems. This new step is the cornerstone to ensure tomorrow’s European strategic autonomy," said Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, the leading developer of FCAS at the air show.
Airbus Defence and Space CEO Dirk Hoke also posted his comment on Twitter that SCAF proceeded well and shared his vision of the future of Defense and welcomed the "clear division of duties and responsibilities", calling it "a major progress on jointly developing Europe's major defense systems and a substantial step in Franco-German cooperation".
In July 2017, Paris and Berlin agreed to develop the 6th generation fighter, which is a system of systems consolidating a large array of interconnected and interoperable elements: a new-generation fighter, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), MALE drones, future cruise missile and drone swarms, connected and operable with a vast perimeter of mission aircraft, satellites, NATO systems, as well as land and naval combat systems.
Sebastien Roblin, a reporter with an American magazine The National Interest, said that FCAS project initially made no mention of inviting British participation, likely due to Brexit, and would be a theoretical competitor with the Tempest project, the 6th generation fighter program launched by Britain.
Theoretically, the two systems concepts share a lot in common such as stealth airframes, stronger sensors that facilitate cooperation with friendly forces (including satellite equipment today), extra-long-range air-to-air guided missiles, laser or microwave weapons, ability to control their own unmanned wing planes, and ability of selective manning (the aircraft is able to fly even without a human pilot) and resilience versus cyberattack.
France and Germany have great strengths in aerodynamic configuration and digitalized fly-by-wire flight control systems, but lag behind Britain in engine, the heart of future fighters, while the Tempest is at least guaranteed by Rolls-Royce's adaptive cycle turbofan engine.
Apparently, a divided Europe made both FCAS and Tempest suffer and put other European countries in a loss. It is learnt that the Paris-Berlin clique and London are both trying hard to lobby Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy, but, according to experts at the air show, only a truly pan-Europe program stands chances of success, although that means the parties will have to clear some major political obstacles.
Roblin cited a statement by Spanish Defense Ministry that neither FCAS nor the Tempest is the best choice, and "an integrated 6th generation fighter program will be more appealing".
From the reporter’s observations, the Franco-German axis and the UK Brexit are inevitable. Jearl-Pierre Maulny, deputy director at The French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, a think tank, said that apart from the 6th generation fighter, Paris and Berlin would no longer consider the "British involvement" when planning future defense programs for Europe due to the uncertainty of Brexit.
It is known that they have already kicked off the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), which will be "led by Germany" in return for France's leadership over the 6th generation fighter program. Both French Defense Minister Florence Parly and her German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen have expressed their satisfaction with such an arrangement before the Paris Air Show 2019 in June and asked their teams to share the results.
(To be continued)
Disclaimer: This article is originally published on Xinmin News Net, one of the biggest mainstream news network based in Shanghai City. It is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.