The governments of Germany and France signed the first contract with Airbus, Dassault and their partners to start the FCAS (Future Combat Air System) program that will give rise to an advanced European fighter, as well as auxiliary systems.
Named Phase 1A, the stage foresees the project for the construction of a demonstration aircraft, which is expected to fly by 2026. In addition to the new 6th gen fighter, the consortium of companies will also develop an unmanned aerial vehicle, combat cloud software and a new engine for the jet. This first phase has a term of 18 months, when Phase 1B will start, which includes the participation of Spain, another partner of the project.
Dassault, famous for its Mirage and Rafale fighters, will have the main mission of designing the NGF (New Generation Fighter) with support from Airbus, which will be in charge of designing the unmanned vehicle together with MBDA, a specialist in guided weapons.
Safran and MTU Aero Engines will be responsible for developing a new propulsion system for the fighter while Thales and Airbus will study the concept of combat cloud.
The FCAS program has the mission of replacing the 4th generation Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon fighters. With a billion dollar cost, the project tries to repeat European partnerships from the past, but hoped to bring together more countries. However, the UK has decided to develop its own 6th generation fighter and is already supported by Sweden and Italy.
Despite this competition, experts believe that the two programs may in the future be merged or establish some type of partnership that will reduce costs for participating nations. For now, France and Germany have taken the lead.