After the failure of the Franco-German MAWS program, the Falcon 10X from Dassault Aviation and the A320Neo from Airbus Defense and Space are in the running to replace the Atlantic 2 maritime patrol aircraft of the French Navy.
The design of a replacement for the German P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and their French Atlantique 2 counterparts was part, in 2017, of Franco-German agreements intended to give a major boost to the idea of Defense Europe , alongside other programs like SCAF for combat aircraft and MGCS for heavy tanks. Designated Maritime Airborne Warfare System or MAWS, this program however experienced a thwarted development, notably when Berlin announced, in 2021, the acquisition of five P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft from the American Boeing to replace its Lockheed P-3Cs. older .
Since then, the program has been at a standstill, with France and Germany believing that it is the other's responsibility to unblock it , without ever giving the necessary impetus to achieve this. Furthermore, as part of the €100 billion envelope announced on February 27 by Olaf Scholz before the Bundestag to modernize the Bundeswehr, an order for 7 additional P8s was initially planned, even if we are now unaware, due to the spread of the program and the influence of inflation , if this hypothesis will be maintained.
In any case, for France, it was essential to take the lead, because the 18 Atlantic 2s currently being modernized to standard 6 will not be able to continue to carry out their strategic mission beyond the next decade.
This is the reason why the French Directorate General of Armaments announced, on February 12, that it had awarded Dassault Aviation and Airbus Défense & Space a study contract worth 10.9 million euros for conduct a competitive study for the replacement of the French Atlantique 2 over the next decade, the first on the basis of the Falcon 10X business aircraft , and the second on an evolution of the medium civil transport aircraft A320Neo mail.
Each of the manufacturers now has 18 months to carry out this study, and propose the most efficient and economical weapon system, but also technological developments in terms of detection, communication, cooperative engagement and combat systems. the most relevant to meet the future needs of the French Navy.
In addition, the technological and economic models proposed by aircraft manufacturers must allow the integration of new partners, particularly European ones, which presupposes an industrial sharing that we know is complex to implement, especially if it must be sufficiently flexible to do it effectively iteratively or successively, and not globally when launching the program.
This last constraint shows that Paris is keeping the door open for Berlin to join the program, and with it other European partners. On the other hand, this announcement definitively puts an end to the MAWS program, in the sense of an ab-initio global cooperation between Paris and Berlin on this subject, and to note that of the 6 Franco-German cooperation programs announced in 2017, only two remain active, the FCAS and MGCS programs, while MAWS (Maritime patrol), CIFS (new generation artillery), MAST-F (Long-range anti-tank missile) and Tiger III (combat helicopter) have been either abandoned or stopped since several years.
In any case, the future of the French maritime patrol will now be played out between the Falcon 10X from Dassault Aviation, and the A320Neo from Airbus, two aircraft with radically different technical and commercial philosophies, and which each have specific assets to showcase.
Remember that the Maritime Patrol, under the command of the French Navy, covers numerous missions, ranging from anti-submarine warfare using sonar buoys and air-dropped torpedoes, to anti-surface warfare with significant resources. radar, electronic and electro-optical detection systems, as well as anti-ship missiles such as the AM39 Exocet and its replacement, the FMAN. They thus actively participate in the protection of maritime spaces, but also of French naval deployments as in the case of the Naval Air Group or the Amphibious Groups, and play a critical role in deterrence by protecting the entry and exit of submarines. nuclear missile launchers in their most vulnerable phases.
Finally, the devices have numerous means of listening and electronic warfare, and have the capacity to implement guided air-ground munitions, allowing them to support ground forces if necessary, particularly during deployments in Africa.
The Airbus DS A320Neo
To meet the current and future missions of the French maritime patrol, Airbus DS relies on its new A320 Neo medium-haul civil transport aircraft . The transformation of civil transport aircraft for maritime patrol missions is not new.
Thus, in the 1960s, the American P3 Orion which replaced the P2 Neptune, was an evolution of the civilian L-188 Electra, while the British Nimrod was derived from the de Havilland Comet and the Ilyoushin Il-38 Doplhin Soviet aircraft relied on the Il-18 transport aircraft.
This approach is still widely used today, with the P-8 Poseidon derived from the Boeing 737-800 replacing the P-3 within the US Navy. However, if most previous generation maritime patrol aircraft, such as the Orion, the Dolphin or the Atlantique, were based on a twin or quad turboprop configuration, the new aircraft to which the A320Neo is similar, such as the American P-8 or the future Russian Tu-214, use a twin-jet configuration.
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