Airbus has collaborated with German-based Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics to create an independent panel of experts on the responsible use of new technologies to define and propose ethical as well as international legal “guard rails” for Europe’s largest defence project: FCAS.
The expert panel, which was first initiated in Germany in 2019, currently includes stakeholders such as the German Ministry of Defence, German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, foundations, universities as well as think tanks.
The FCAS program reflects a complex and extensive networked 'System of Systems', of which a next-generation manned fighter will represent one key element.
Dirk Hoke, chief executive of Airbus Defence and Space, explained, “In many ways, FCAS represents a giant leap forward. Not only is it Europe’s largest defence program in the coming decades, which will foster collaboration across our partner nations. With FCAS we’ll be significantly stepping up our game in terms of new technologies which will form part of this sixth-generation System of Systems.”
Such manned platforms will team with unmanned ones, called "remote carriers", which will be providing additional capabilities to complete the missions at stake. Scalable and interoperable system architectures will allow upgraded existing platforms to be integrated into FCAS.
“This opens up new opportunities in terms of security policy and helps to strengthen Europe's role in the world. But there are also ethical and legal challenges which we have to address,” Hoke added.
Leveraging the collaborative capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms will require an "Air Combat Cloud" fusing in real-time massive amounts of data augmented by warfare analytics and artificial intelligence.
Furthermore, it is expected that the technologies developed in the frame of this project will also have significant beneficial spill-over effects for future civil applications.
Professor Reimund Neugebauer, president of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, added, “FCAS is the largest and most technologically ambitious European defence program ever. One essential question we’re trying to tackle with this panel is how we can ensure that, on the one hand, such a system meets the necessary mission requirements of the 21st century on a global scale, while, on the other hand, ensuring full human control of such a system at all times and under all circumstances.
“For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, a major defence policy project is accompanied from the start by the intellectual struggle for the technical implementation of basic ethical and legal principles – 'ethical and legal compliance by design'.”
In order to reflect the European nature of the FCAS program, it is foreseen in due course to broaden the panel to further participating nations.
The cornerstone of FCAS is the next-generation weapon system where next-generation fighters team up with remote carriers as force multipliers.
Additionally, manned and unmanned platforms also will provide their uniqueness to the collective capabilities while being fully interoperable with allied forces across domains from land to cyber.
The air combat cloud will enable the leveraging of networked capabilities of all pooled platforms.