SCAF, or Dreams of Europe about the fighter of a new generation
One of the main aviation News April of this year there was news of an agreement between France and Germany, aimed, inter alia, at creating a new generation fighter. This was announced at the International Aerospace Fair ILA-2018, which was held in Berlin. The complex was designated Système de combat aérien du futur (SCAF).
The word "complex" reveals the essence of the agreement. And the point is not that each modern fighter aircraft is a set of complex systems. The agreement reached should be "a key element of European security." It will combine the development of the fighter, a number of unmanned vehicles, as well as systems of interaction, control and management. As an approximate date for the appearance of the new aircraft, the 2040 was called, but there are no guarantees that this will indeed be the case and that the test dates will not be postponed. In the case of so complex and expensive developments this cannot be ruled out.
About the future fighter himself knows little. Now the main actors are two, and they are more than weighty. This is a pan-European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and the national French Dassault Aviation. “We are ready and we are talking to our ministries of defense, and our authorities: we are ready, now for the cause,” said Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trapier. The “first violin” will be the company from France. There is nothing surprising in this: behind her back is the creation of such internationally recognized cars as the Dassault Mirage 2000 and Dassault Rafale.
Strictly speaking, in modern Europe only France can be called a country with a full cycle of fighter aircraft. The British aircraft industry is no longer capable of developing and mass-producing such machines. The famous “Harrier” even in 60 was difficult to call “the king of the sky”, and after it the British switched to cooperation with other European countries. In the case of Germany, the national combat aircraft after the Second World War became “taboo”. The times of fear of the coming to power of the new Hitler are long gone, but cooperation in this issue with other states for the Germans and now has a higher priority than the purely national aircraft industry.
Dassot and New Fighter
The news about the new fighter itself did not come as a surprise. The signing of the contract could happen after a year and, for example, after two. With vague wording about the "threat of a new war in Europe" and unclear deadlines for implementation. I was really surprised by the concept of a fighter of a new generation, presented by the corporation Airbus Defense and Space in November last year. The spectacular presentation gave an overview of the car with the straightforward name of New Fighter. It should be part of an extensive military program. According to the plan, the fighters will interact with both AEW and satellite constellations, as well as with new UAVs. The concept was drawn with a clear emphasis towards stealth, which, of course, makes it related to F-22 and the Russian PAK FA. On the other hand, the thesis on the “theft of technology”, voiced by the aircraft enthusiasts, is completely incorrect here. The plane shown in the image is made using an aerodynamic tailless design. Very popular with Europeans. At the same time, both the F-22, and the F-35, and the Su-57 have a normal aerodynamic configuration. The presence of an analogy of the swiveling front end, which we see on the PAK FA, is also not a serious indication that European aircraft manufacturers have lost their originality.
The question, in general, is different. Shown New Fighter may not have any relation to the future fighter. Engineers of Dassault can use some ideas, but with high probability the demonstrated concept will remain only a beautiful picture, and the future European fighter will be created from scratch, as they say.
In this regard, we can not say about the main trend of recent years. Namely, the creation of unmanned aerial vehicles. So far, they have proven themselves as scouts and as a means for pinpoint strikes on the ground. But so far. In the future, the fighter is also likely to be unmanned. So the New Fighter (and it is stated first of all as a manned machine) may be incorrect, especially conceptual.
Another option that is often paid attention to is the possibility of coexistence on the same base of a manned and unmanned fighter. When one controlled aircraft acts as the control center of the "flock" drones. An interesting approach that can get a start in life. But it is not a fact that in the case of SCAF, this direction will be chosen. At this stage, it is generally useless to draw any conclusions. It will be possible to judge more or less exactly when (if) a technology demonstrator will be presented. Offhand: it will take at least five to ten years to wait. During this time, the role of incorporeal systems will only increase.
Attempt number five
Finally, the most important thing. That, without discussing what, in principle, it does not make sense to talk about Système de combat aérien du futur. SCAF is not the first attempt to create “something European”. Few people now remember that BAE Systems worked on 1990 on FOAS (Future Offensive Air System), which was closed only on 2005. They wanted to create a promising combat aircraft to replace the Tornado GR.4 in the Royal Air Force. Later, the program was renamed DPOC (Deep and Persistent Offensive Capability) and finally closed in the 2010 year. All that remains of the British beginnings is a full-scale model of a promising combat aircraft. They applied their experience in the case of the Taranis UAV. Well, the French decided to create their own nEUROn, in general, similar to the British design. Taranis and nEUROn, however, are related to the full-fledged fighter of the new generation mediated. Still, different classes of combat vehicles.
Here, perhaps, it would be appropriate to recall that once the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale were supposed to be "one." In the 1983 year, at a meeting of the chiefs of staff of the French, German, British, Italian and Spanish Air Forces, they decided to create a consortium called Eurofighter, which would create a new generation European fighter. Already at the stage of the formation of the tactical and technical tasks, the participants began to argue: France, unlike the others, needed not only a land, but also a deck plane. They were not satisfied with the weight and some other parameters. The result is well known to all of us: France withdrew from the consortium, creating in the end its Rafale.
But do not forget that then there was a cold war. It would seem, is not the best time for disagreements between the allies. In any case, in the face of a real threat from the East, it was easier for Europeans to come to an agreement than now, when the military danger for the EU is ephemeral, and the chances of actually pressing the United States on the world market for fighter aircraft are not very high.
In such circumstances, we can not exclude the new "divorce" between Germany and France. Another quite possible option is to lower the project on the brakes. Under the bravura speech of German politicians about the merits of F-35, to the purchase of which Germany has strongly favored in recent years. Both of these scenarios, of course, are far from the only ones, but so far they look the most realistic.
Until Europe can work out its own development vector, independent of the United States, it’s generally difficult to talk about such ambitious projects. In the extreme case, the Americans will try to drive a wedge into an agreement between the French and the Germans, but so far even they do not need it. Lockheed Martin feels quite confident in the global aircraft market. And every year Europe can offer less and less.
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