The future of military technology was on display at the Paris Air Show, which also highlighted the concerted efforts made by European nations to remain at the forefront of technology. Future combat systems will be far more versatile and swing-role capable than ever before. While Turkey’s TF-X unveil showcased the impressive strides made by the Turkish defence industry, the future of air combat was showcased with the unveil of the European New Generation Fighter (NGF) and its Remote Carrier (RC) concept.
European New Generation Fighter
The European New Generation Fighter (NGF) and Remote Carriers models were unveiled to an expectant audience on the inaugural day of the Paris Air Show. The concept models were developed as part of the first Demonstrator Phase of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). France, Germany and Spain will now proceed with the European Demonstrator Phase, which will run between 2019 and mid-2021.
Dassault Aviation and Airbus expect a contract award for the first Demonstrator Phase by Q4 2019.
This will serve as a starting point for demonstrators and technology development for a New Generation Fighter (NGF), Remote Carriers (RC) and an Air Combat Cloud (ACC) to fly by 2026.
The FCAS will be much more than a combat aircraft and will be a system of systems consolidating a large array of interconnected and interoperable elements: a new generation fighter aircraft, unmanned MALE drones (medium-altitude, long endurance), the current aircraft fleet (which will still be in service after 2040), cruise missiles and drone swarms.
Turkey Unveils TF-X
Turkey’s next-generation indigenous TF-X fighter jet was also created waves at the air show and the impressive looking aircraft is part of a US$13 billion Turkish effort to offer a fifth-generation fighter to the international market.
The maiden flight of the TF-X is planned for 2025 and service entry is slated for 2028.
“We have promised to our nation that this will be the best fighter in Europe,” Temel Kotil, President and CEO of TAI, said. “As well as Turkey, hopefully this will also be a good fighter option for European allies.”
Turkey has signed an agreement with the UK in 2017 to facilitate the joint development the aircraft, it said, noting that BAE Systems is helping with the aircraft design, while Rolls-Royce teamed with Turkey’s Kale Group to work on the development of an indigenous engine for the TF-X.
Next Gen Weapons for Next Gen Aircraft
European missile major MBDA sprung a surprise, when it showcased a new range of futuristic missile concepts planned for the next generation of European air combat platforms. The new concepts are the result of ongoing studies in its domestic nations.
“MBDA’s vision for future air armaments is exhaustive and ambitious, and we are ready to take on the challenge to deliver to our domestic nations the full sovereignty of their future air combat systems by taking part in the definition and development of the armaments that these systems will operate,” said Eric Béranger, CEO of MBDA.
Amongst the missiles unveiled were deep strike cruise missiles with advanced options to penetrate and open breaches in the most efficient A2AD (Anti Access Area Denial) deployments in the future.
MBDA is also showcasing its future tactical strike weapons with stand-off, networked and compact armaments. These new weapons will also be able to saturate enemy defences thanks to pack or swarm behaviours.
Airbus Helicopters H160M
An important new rotorcraft type that made its debut at the air show was the new Airbus Helicopters H160M. A full-scale mock-up of the H160M marked the first public display of the new type.
The H160M was selected as the new Joint Light Helicopter (HélicoptèreInterarmées Léger; HIL) for the French armed forces and is slated for service entry in 2026.
To be called ‘Cheetah’ in French military service, a total of 169 helicopters will be acquired by the army (80), air force (40) and navy (49).
The new H160M will replace 5 different rotorcraft fleets in operation with the French armed forces, namely; Gazelle (Army), Alouette III, Dauphin and Panther (Navy) and Fennec (Air Force).
The mock-up of the helicopter on display at Le Bourget was armed with an MBDA Sea Venom/AGL anti-ship missile and a 20 mm cannon on each wing pylon.
The H160M was formally unveiled by French Defence Minister Florence Parly during her visit to Airbus Helicopters’ Head Quarters at Marignane in May.