Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The GCAP 6th generation fighter program specializes in air superiority

The new GCAP program bringing together Great Britain, Italy and Japan, seems to specialize in air superiority for an aircraft intended to evolve alongside the F-35A/B.

Announced at the 2018 Farnbourouh show, the Future Combat Air System program and the British 6th generation Tempest fighter was then perceived by many experts as a proud response to the announcement of the upcoming launch of the Franco-German FCAS program at fall 2017.

And even if European partners, such as the Italian Leonardo or the missile maker MBDA, participated in the British program, many questions remained regarding the budgetary sustainability of such a program by London.

However, the political determination of the British did not waver , and the first significant investments for the development of the program were not long in being indicated with, in passing, an economic model piloted by PWc based not on public spending, but on the budgetary and social balance of the investment made .

In fact, where SCAF struggled to overcome Franco-German differences and saw its deadlines slip by more than a year per year, the FCAS continued its work, to the point of attracting new state partners. First Italy in January 2021 , then a year later, Japan by merging the European Tempest program and Japanese FX .

In fact, today, not only is the FCAS program, since renamed the Global Combat Air Program or GCAP program, secure, but it even offers much more robust structural parameters than the FCAS program, marked by a year standoff between Dassault Aviation and Airbus Defense & Space for the management of the 1st pillar of the program aimed at designing the Next Generation Fighter, the combat aircraft at the heart of the system of systems.

Indeed, on the one hand, the complementarity of know-how within GCAP facilitates industrial sharing within the program, especially since Great Britain, due to its experience, remains the undisputed pilot and in particular the designer of the Tempest combat aircraft.

In addition, the ambitions put forward by the 3 partners of the GCAP program in terms of defense investment are all higher than those put forward by their mirrors of the FCAS program, with specifically Japan which is aiming for an armed forces budget in excess of 100 billion $ where Germany is only targeting $85 billion. Finally, the three countries share a similar architecture for the future of their air forces.

New Generation Fighter NGF Concept Military Planning and Plans | Defense Analysis | Fighter aircraft
Perceived as more robust than the British program at its launch, the FCAS is today much less sure of its relative strengths

Thus, London, like Tokyo and Rome, are already major users of the F-35 Lightning II, particularly the B version with vertical or short takeoff and landing to arm the British aircraft carriers Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Walles, the British aircraft carriers. light Japanese Izumo and Kaga and the Italian aircraft carriers Cavour and Trieste.

Furthermore, it is likely that, like the Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces and the Italian Air Forces, the Royal Air Force will in the future acquire F-35As in addition to the F-35Bs in its naval aviation, so as to densify its strike capabilities and suppress opposing defenses.

The situation is much less clear within the FCAS program, where France actually wants a fully versatile aircraft to replace its Rafale , while Germany, and very probably Spain, will at least implement a specialized fleet of F- 35, the first to ensure NATO's nuclear mission, the second to arm its aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I, with a very significant risk that additional orders will come in particular to compensate for the schedule slippage of the FCAS program.

LOGO meta defense 70 Military planning and plans | Defense Analysis | Fighter aircraft

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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