02:21 13.06.2017 (updated 06:43 13.06.2017)
As Germany, Spain and other European nations scour the market for viable multirole military aircraft, the next generation fighter may come from the Toulouse, France-based aircraft giant Airbus, according to German newspaper Handlesblatt.
Most European air crews rely on the legacy F-16 and Eurofighter Typhoon, in addition to the Tornado, but with the US becoming shakier on its commitment to NATO it may be high time for Europe to handle more of its defense requirements in-house.
Spain and Germany have already begun pouring resources into a possible pan-European fighter jet, Deutsche Welle reported Monday. Airbus defense head Fernando Alonso said “hopefully other players in the future” will contribute to the significant initial costs of designing a plane of the future, the German paper added.
From a bloc-security standpoint, condensing the spread of aircraft weapons systems with a new European-engineered and —produced combat aircraft could streamline defense operations for the 28-nation bloc, the German paper added.
As it stands, nations use many different types of aircraft. Some already have the high-tech (and frequently broken) F-35: Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, and Turkey have all agreed to participate in the US’ Joint Strike Fighter program, according to Lockheed’s corporate website. Lithuania, however, has just one combat aircraft in its 14-plane fleet, and it came off the production line in the 1970s. Estonia, meanwhile, has no armed aircraft in its current inventory.
According to Alonso, even two or three different types of aerial weapons systems will drive inefficiencies and cost more money over time.
The German government appears to be taking a methodical, even-handed approach in considering all of its options. In addition to funding development of an Airbus-made jet, the Luftwaffe filed a request with the Pentagon for classified details about Washington’s uber-expensive F-35, and the German Ministry of Defense expressed it was conducting an "in-depth evaluation of available market solutions … including the F-35."
China could prove to be an x-factor as the aviation giant charts out possible solutions for Europe’s aerial fleet. On June 1, Beijing inked a memorandum of understanding with Airbus on aviation and aerospace, "further enhancing a spirit of cooperation," Airbus announced on its website.
China’s J-20 looks and flies astoundingly similar to Lockheed’s fifth-generation F-35, leading many to believe China somehow obtained the blueprints for one of America’s most expensive aircraft. Some had wondered whether some of Washington’s secrets were stolen by Chinese hackers.
These curious people did not need to wait too long. A confidential report on cyberconflict between China and the US shown to the Washington Post in 2013 stated that the $1.4 trillion F-35 program had been compromised. Leaks from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden confirmed that 50 terabytes had been swiped from the Pentagon — including details about the F-35’s engine design and stealth features — and ultimately ended up in Beijing’s hands.
The J-20 has no resemblance to the F-35........
Airbus hopes to build new European fighter jet
31 March 2017 - 11H21
FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) -
Aerospace giant Airbus is planning a next-generation European fighter jet, the group's defence chief said Friday, hoping to profit from the Old Continent's renewed commitment to reach NATO defence spending targets.
"We are currently putting together pre-design studies to show what such an aircraft could look like," Airbus Defence and Space chief executive Dirk Hoke told German business daily Handelsblatt. "We're speaking very intensively with European governments."
Many EU nations are looking to boost defence spending, as pressure mounts from Donald Trump's White House for NATO allies to increase military budgets to the alliance's target of 2.0 percent of GDP.
A future Airbus fighter -- known as the "Next Generation Weapons System" (NGWS) -- would have "far-reaching new technical qualities," Hoke said.
It could "combine the best of both worlds" of manned and unmanned aircraft, with a human-piloted plane working "in combination with a swarm of drones," he went on. "The overwhelming opinion of the nations is that they should hang on to manned platforms."
"Such projects can no longer be financed by individual nations" in Europe, Hoke believes.
The armaments chief expects France and Germany to take the lead on the new fighter, but there are disagreements about when it should enter service -- in 2035, when Berlin's 85 Tornado fighter-bombers are set to be mothballed, or Paris' preferred option of between 2035 and 2040.
Germany is unlikely to commit to the project before parliamentary elections in September, with Airbus expecting "far-reaching studies to be authorised in the coming year.
"Then we would need a basic decision for the new platform in the next two to three years" to keep to a 2035 timetable, Hoke said.
Airbus has been dogged in recent years by troubles with another joint project, the A400M transport plane commissioned by seven countries -- Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Belgium, and Turkey.
Hoke faced a dressing-down from client nations on Thursday in Madrid.
A source told AFP the nations had refused Airbus' request that they hold off imposing the heavy penalties provided for in the A400M contract that have weighed on the company's profits.
"We will never sign contracts with conditions like that again," Hoke told Handelsblatt, blaming the problems on unrealistic requirements from the buyers and their insistence on using European-built engines.
In the closer future, Airbus expects "to add three to five percent to business in defence and space, even more in digital", as countries begin to ratchet up military budgets, Hoke said.
"The increase in military budgets has already begun, and there were already positive signs of that in our new orders last year."
© 2017 AFP
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