Home USA Italian-British-Japanese sixth generation fighter program GCAP specializes in air superiority

Italian-British-Japanese sixth generation fighter program GCAP specializes in air superiority

Italian-British-Japanese sixth generation fighter program GCAP specializes in air superiority

Announced at the 2018 Farnbourouh air show, the Future Combat Air Systems program and the sixth-generation British Tempest fighter were perceived by many experts as a proud response to the announcement of the upcoming launch of the Franco-German SCAF program in autumn 2018. And even if European partners, such as the Italian Leonardo or MBDA Missile, did participate in the British program, many questions remain about the financial sustainability of such a program by London.

However, the political determination of the British did not waver, and it was not long before the first significant investments for the development of the program were announced, as well as an economic model driven by PWc based not on public spending, but on budgetary and social. Balance of investment made. Indeed, while the SCAF struggled to overcome Franco-German differences and saw its deadline slip by more than a year, the FCAS continued its work to attract new state partners. First Italy in January 2021, then Japan a year later through the European Tempest program and the merger of Japanese FX.

In fact, today, not only is the FCAS program, which was renamed the Global Combat Air Program, or GCAP, safe, but it also offers more robust structural parameters than the SCAF program, a joint venture between Dassault Aviation and Airbus Defence. marked by a year of confrontation. , & to pilot the first pillar of the program aimed at designing the next generation fighter, fighter aircraft at the heart of the system of Space Systems.

In fact, on the one hand, the complementarity of knowledge within the GCAP facilitates industrial exchanges within the program, especially since Great Britain, due to its experience with the undisputed pilot and, in particular, of the Tempest fighter jet remain designers. Furthermore, the ambitions put forward by the 3 GCAP program partners in terms of defense investment exceed those put forward by their SCAF program mirrors, notably Japan which is targeting a military budget of over $100 billion, where Germany only targets $85 billion. , Finally, all three countries share a similar architecture for the future of their air forces.

Italian-British-Japanese Sixth Generation Fighter Program Gcap Specializes In Air Superiority
Considered stronger than the British program at the time of its launch, the SCAF has little confidence in its relative strength today.

Thus, London, like Tokyo and Rome, are already large users of the F-35 Lightning II, notably the British aircraft carriers Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, the Japanese aircraft carriers B with vertical or short takeoff and landing. version. the light aircraft Izumo and Kaga and the Italian aircraft carriers Cavour and Trieste. In addition, it is likely that, like the Japanese Self-Defense Air Force and the Italian Air Force, the Royal Air Force will acquire F-35As in the future in addition to the F-35Bs of its naval aviation, in order to bolster its capability. Hit and suppress the opposing strongholds.

The situation within the SCAF program is much less clear, with France effectively seeking a fully versatile aircraft to replace its Rafale, while Germany and most likely Spain will deploy at least one specialized fleet of the F-35. Will be the first to ensure a nuclear mission. , NATO’s, the second to assemble its aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I, with a very significant risk that additional orders will come, especially to compensate for the schedule changes of the SCAF program.

However, beyond these technical and economic aspects, these elements mean that the two programs SCAF and GCAP may have a very different purpose, the latter more openly aiming to be a superiority tool, like the US NGADs. Is. Totally versatile aircraft.

Thus, on the sidelines of the DSEI Fair held in the suburbs of London last week, various details regarding the configuration of GCAP were revealed, notably by Major General Masaaki Oyama, the GCAP Program Development Division’s leadership within the agency of procurement, logistics and technology. Did. Japan.

It also introduced for the first time a sensor integration and fusion system designated by the acronym ISANKE (Integrated Sensing and Non Kinetic Effects) as well as an integrated communication system designated ICS jointly developed by Mitsubishi Electric, Leonardo UK. Leonardo and ELT. The ISANKE system will bring together the device’s identification and sensor capabilities, as well as its remote vectors (drones), in an integrated system, but the means of self-defense, and especially jamming and decoying, while offering synthetic vision. In advance to the crew to make the best use of the available means.

The ICS system, on the other hand, will allow the device to communicate with all elements of the system of systems, including other devices, drones and support equipment, ground and naval forces and equipment, not to mention spatial capabilities. The purpose of this architecture, ultimately classic when we talk about the 6th generation, would be to allow the device to take advantage and maintain air superiority, in fact what would be the main mission of the device.

Italian-British-Japanese Sixth Generation Fighter Program Gcap Specializes In Air Superiority
The US Navy’s NGAD program aimed to design an aircraft with real expertise in the area of ​​air superiority.

GCAP’s expertise in the area of ​​air superiority is not surprising. Already, the US Air Force and US Navy NGAD programs also aim to develop a specialized device mostly in this mission, regardless of the Navy program, due to its F/designation A-XX, and its justification, namely F/K. The replacement for the A-18 Super Hornet indicated the aircraft would also have attack capability, although this mission would be assigned to the F-35C as a priority.

In addition, like all sixth-generation programs, GCAP will be based on Loyal Wingman and Remote Carrier type drones, which will expand detection and engagement capabilities not only in the airspace, but also in air-to-ground or air-to-air. Surface domain.. Thus, even if both GCAP and NGAD specialize in air superiority, they will be far from helpless in other areas due to the versatility of the accompanying drones. Finally, for the 6 Air Force, the new aircraft will replace the aircraft dedicated to air superiority, the Typhoon within the British and Italian Air Forces, the F-3J and the F-15 within the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

Nevertheless, if the expertise of NGAD and GCAP is clearly understood, due to its complementarity with the F-35, it also demonstrates the now well-recognized limitations of Lockheed-Martin aircraft in this area. Thus, whether the Lightning II’s capabilities are tested in attack, suppression, or penetration missions, its limited performance, especially in terms of speed, ceiling, radius of action, and maneuverability, necessitates designing specialized aircraft for it. led to a better equipped air force. Objective. Area. , and thus complements the F-35. Many of the Lockheed-Martin Predator customers that specifically implement Lightning II, especially Finland, Norway or Canada, that have to protect large areas from the air will probably appreciate it.

On the contrary, this specialization opens up the opportunity to position the SCAF to turn it into a new versatile tool, effective in all areas, as the Rafale specification already had, which, after all, had nothing to envy the Typhoon Is. In terms of air superiority as well as being more efficient in the air-to-ground and air-to-surface domains. Hopefully, Berlin, and possibly Madrid, will not push to align the SCAF philosophy with the GCAP or NGAD, resorting to the F-35 as well.

Article in full from March 21 to June 11, 2023


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