Airbus has concluded a pilot phase of the “Innovations for FCAS” (I4 FCAS) initiative, which aims at involving German non-traditional defence players – covering start-ups, small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and research institutes – in the development of Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
This initiative which was launched in April 2020 was funded by the German Ministry of Defence.
Dirk Hoke, chief executive officer of Airbus Defence and Space said, “The initiative shows that FCAS does not compare with previous larger defence projects. By implementing young and innovative players, some of whom have never been in touch with the defence sector, we ensure to leverage all competencies available for a game-changing high-tech program such as FCAS.”
During the pilot phase, 18 innovative players worked on 14 projects in different areas, covering the whole range of FCAS elements: combat cloud, connectivity, new generation fighter, remote carriers, system of systems, sensors.
Among these 14 projects, Airbus engineers have worked closely with SMEs and startups to achieve concrete results such as:
- A first flight-test approved launcher of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from of a transport aircraft. This project is the result of a co-operation between Airbus as A400M integrator, Geradts GmbH for the launcher and SFL GmbH from Stuttgart for UAV integration and supported by DLR simulations. An agile design and development approach allowed for rapid prototyping and flight readiness in only six months.
- A secure combat cloud demonstrator: a first time transfer of secured operating systems into a cloud environment. Kernkonzept GmbH from Dresden together with Airbus CyberSecurity have shown how IT security can be used for highest security requirements on a governmental cloud system.
- A demonstrator of applied artificial intelligence on radiofrequency analysis. Hellsicht GmbH from Munich trained their algorithms on Airbus-provided datasets, allowing for a unique capability of real time fingerprinting of certain emitters, such as radars.
As Europe's largest defence program in the coming decades, FCAS aims at pushing innovation and technological boundaries. Its development will bring disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, manned-unmanned teaming, combat cloud or cybersecurity to the forefront.
“It will also foster technological spill-overs between the military and civil worlds. It is our ambition to continue the initiative in 2021 and beyond, and make it a cornerstone of our FCAS innovation strategy,” Hoke added.
FCAS is expected to enter into service by 2040 and has been designed to be more than a combat aircraft. The FCAS is expected to serve as part of a system of systems, consolidating an array of interconnected and interoperable elements, including unmanned medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drones, the existing fleet of Eurofighter and Rafale fighter aircraft, cruise missiles and drone swarms.
The FCAS system will serve as a critical component of a connected and interoperable system with a vast perimeter of specialist mission aircraft, satellites, NATO systems and a distributed network of land and naval combat systems.
FCAS is designed to assure European autonomy in the air and space domain, while enhancing existing political, strategic and industrial partnerships in Europe.
Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2018, it generated revenues of €64 billion and employed a workforce of around 134,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners.
With over 10,000 military and civil aircraft (including 2,500 Falcons) delivered in more than 90 countries over the last century, Dassault Aviation has built up expertise recognised worldwide in the design, development, sale and support of all types of aircraft, ranging from the Rafale fighter to the high-end Falcon family of business jets and military drones.
In 2018, Dassault Aviation reported revenues of €5.1 billion. The company has 11,500 employees.