Two fighters for the SCAF “is not unacceptable” but not the preferred solution, according to the DGA

Two fighters for the SCAF “is not unacceptable” but not the preferred solution, according to the DGA

Two fighters for the SCAF “is not unacceptable” but not the preferred solution, according to the DGA

Two fighters for the SCAF “is not unacceptable” but not the preferred solution, according to the DGA

Launched in 2017 by France and Germany, the SCAF [Système de combat aérien du futur]subsequently joined by Spain, it aims to develop a “system of systems” based on a new generation fighter aircraft [NGF – New Generation Fighter]which will evolve together with older devices, drones and connected effectors within a “cloud of combat”.

Given its complexity, this program has been organized according to several pillars [avion de combat, moteurs, effecteurs connectés, cloud de combat, cohérence d’ensemble, furtivité, capteurs]. And, for each of them, a project manager was appointed according to the “best athlete” principle. This is how Dassault Aviation was chosen to carry out the work related to the NGF, with Airbus Defense & Security [avec ses filiales allemandes et espagnoles] as main partner.

Alone, and while Phase 1B, which is expected to pave the way for an NGF demonstrator, should already be underway, Dassault Aviation and Airbus DS are struggling to get along. Thus, and after making many concessions, according to its CEO, Éric Trappier, the former intends to maintain the levers that should allow it to guarantee the management of the project for which it was appointed. Which the second visa disputes him, which claims a more active role in the field of flight controls and in that of stealth.

This disagreement between Dassault Aviation and Airbus DS is now old: it was in fact talked about on February 5, 2021 by Angela Merkel, the former German chancellor. “It is a project under French leadership, but it still means that the German partners can be at a satisfactory level compared to their counterparts. [français]. We must therefore see very precisely the issues of industrial property, the division of labor and the sharing of leadership, “he said, after a Franco-German defense council.

Be that as it may, Dassault Aviation does not hide its impatience … And it comes to talk of “plan B” if there is no progress by the end of this year. And the hypothesis of a failure was first mentioned by the former General Delegate for Armaments [DGA], Joël Barre, during his last hearing at the National Assembly in July. “If we ever fail in the Franco-German projects, we can continue to build combat aviation from the subsequent developments of the Rafale,” he said.

Are the positions of Dassault Aviation and Airbus DS irreconcilable? In any case, according to Emmanuel Chiva, Barre’s successor at the helm of the General Directorate of Armaments [DGA], the two producers are “arguing”. And to add: “I’m awaiting the outcome” of their “quick discussions” as we should know more by the end of this month, he told BFMTV on September 13th.

However, if no agreement is reached, two fighter aircraft could be developed under the SCAF, one of which is French. This hypothesis was also advanced in February 2021 by the German works council of Airbus Defense & Space and the powerful IG Metall union.

“It is essential to transfer the knowledge of the engineers who worked on the Tornado and Eurofighter to the new generations. If Germany does not build its own demonstrator, this know-how will be lost, “said Bernhard Stiedl of the IG Metall union at the time.” If Berlin now gives up on a demonstrator at the start of the project, then the SCAF will become a project of industrial policy for France, financed to a large extent by Germany “, argued the works council of Airbus Defense & Space. Clearly we are not far from a German” plan B “…

However, for Mr. Chiva, “it is not unacceptable that there are two fighter planes since the plane is a platform that is part of the SCAF program” even if “it is not the preferred solution today”. And when asked if there will be a “new Rafale”, the DGA replied: “There will be a future for French fighter aviation, that’s for sure”.

This “future” will be embodied by the F5 standard of the Rafale which, according to General Frédéric Parisot, major general of the Air & Space Force [MGAEE] must be “capable of carrying a Loyal Wingman crew member [drone de combat autonome, ndlr] “, integrate” artificial intelligence to help the pilot “and have” different means of connectivity “.

As for Germany, the hypothesis put forward by Christian Mölling, director of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik [Conseil allemand des relations étrangères] in the columns of Breaking Defense, is that it ends up joining the Tempest program [ou FCAS], led by the United Kingdom, with the support of Italy and Japan. And for both SCAF and FCAS, “no one has the money except Germany,” she remarked.

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